Inpatient treatment is an expensive way of caring for people with acute psychiatric disorders. It has been proposed that many of those currently treated as inpatients could be cared for in acute psychiatric day hospitals.
To assess the effects of day hospital versus inpatient care for people with acute psychiatric disorders.
We searched the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (Cochrane Library, issue 4, 2000), MEDLINE (January 1966 to December 2000), EMBASE (1980 to December 2000), CINAHL (1982 to December 2000), PsycLIT (1966 to December 2000), and the reference lists of articles. We approached trialists to identify unpublished studies.
Randomised controlled trials of day hospital versus inpatient care, for people with acute psychiatric disorders. Studies were ineligible if a majority of participants were under 18 or over 65, or had a primary diagnosis of substance abuse or organic brain disorder.
Data collection and analysis
Data were extracted independently by two reviewers and cross‐checked. Relative risks and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated for dichotomous data. Weighted or standardised means were calculated for continuous data. Day hospital trials tend to present similar outcomes in slightly different formats, making it difficult to synthesise data. Individual patient data were therefore sought so that outcomes could be reanalysed in a common format.
Nine trials (involving 1568 people) met the inclusion criteria. Individual patient data were obtained for four trials (involving 594 people). Combined data suggested that, at the most pessimistic estimate, day hospital treatment was feasible for 23% (n=2268, CI 21 to 25) of those currently admitted to inpatient care. Individual patient data from three trials showed no difference in number of days in hospital between day hospital patients and controls (n=465, 3 RCTs, WMD ‐0.38 days/month CI ‐1.32 to 0.55). However, compared to controls, people randomised to day hospital care spent significantly more days in day hospital care (n=265, 3 RCTs, WMD 2.34 days/month CI 1.97 to 2.70) and significantly fewer days in inpatient care (n=265, 3 RCTs, WMD ‐2.75 days/month CI ‐3.63 to ‐1.87). There was no significant difference in readmission rates between day hospital patients and controls (n=667, 5 RCTs, RR 0.91 CI 0.72 to 1.15). For patients judged suitable for day hospital care, individual patient data from three trials showed a significant time‐treatment interaction, indicating a more rapid improvement in mental state (n=407, Chi‐squared 9.66, p=0.002), but not social functioning (n=295, Chi‐squared 0.006, p=0.941) amongst patients treated in the day hospital. Four of five trials found that day hospital care was cheaper than inpatient care (with cost reductions ranging from 20.9 to 36.9%).
Caring for people in acute day hospitals can achieve substantial reductions in the numbers of people needing inpatient care, whilst improving patient outcome.