Effects of temporal variables on the utilization of mental health services

David E. Klingensmith (2004)

The impact of temporal variables, such as the time of year, on inpatient (IP) and outpatient (OP) mental health services during the period of January through December 2000 were examined. The data were gathered through the utilization of data services from a managed care company (MC) serving the Central Florida area and a community mental health center (CMHC) serving Orange County in Central Florida. A series of chi-square tests were performed to examine the distribution of both IP and OP services across months of the year at both MC and CMHC treatment settings. These were completed to determine whether there were (a) monthly trends for combined IP and OP services for both types of settings, (b) seasonal trends for IP or OP services at both types of settings, and (c) similar monthly trends for IP or OP services at both types of settings. All of the tests showed significant variation at p <= .001, with the exception of seasonal trends for IP services at both settings. Both settings had their lowest number of OP visits in the month of January and the winter season, and number of IP bed days in the month of June and summer season. The highest number of OP visits and IP bed days fell within the fall season. However, even though the number of OP services peaked for both settings in October, IP services peaked in September in the MC setting, and in October in the CMHC setting. The findings of this study demonstrate similar seasonal patterns of service demand at both MC and CMHC environments. In addition, peak utilization may be impacted more by factors such as social time and events that occur throughout the year than by seasonal effects alone. This information could contribute to improved service delivery planning, innovative staffing strategies for high demand periods, and proactive interventions that anticipate and address causes for demand spikes.