One approach to improving quality of care is to encourage physicians to follow evidence-based practice guidelines. Examples of evidence-based guidelines are the PORT recommendations for the treatment of schizophrenia. However, few studies have examined the relationship between adherence to guidelines and patient outcomes in clinical settings.
The purpose of this article is to report the relationship between guideline adherence to antipsychotic medication dose and self-reported health status, side effects, and perceptions of care.
This report is based on a subsample of patients from a larger prospective observational study of disabled Massachusetts Medicaid beneficiaries treated for schizophrenia.
Participants were 329 acutely ill, vulnerable, high-risk Medicaid adult beneficiaries enrolled after visiting any 1 of 8 psychiatric emergency screening teams for hospital admission evaluation.
Dose levels, symptoms, and functioning from medical records; self-reports as data collected from BASIS-32, SF-12, and CABHS; and paid health benefit claims for psychiatric treatment were measured.
Approximately 40% of the patients in this study had daily antipsychotic doses well above the recommended range, but there was no evidence that their health status was better than those on doses below 1000 CPZ units recommended for acute episodes. High-dose levels had no relationship to baseline symptom profile or referral source.
There was no evidence that health status was better on higher-than-recommended doses, but we cannot conclude that lower doses for some would have led to poorer outcomes. Physicians who believe that higher doses are more therapeutic for patients need to demand rigorous effectiveness research that tests whether there are benefits of higher doses and determine the ratio of those benefits to the clinical costs, including the risk of side effects.