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Gaceta Sanitaria

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ALDAY, Juan et al. Variability in outpatient resource use in mental health services for children and adolescents. Gac Sanit [online]. 2005, vol.19, n.6, pp.448-455. ISSN 0213-9111.

Objectives: To assess possible variability in the therapeutic approaches provided to patients aged less than 18 years old in community mental health centres (CMHC) in terms of the number of visits and length of treatment. Method: An observational, analytical, prospective, longitudinal study was performed in a clinical cohort of 298 subjects attending the CMHC of Leganés and Fuenlabrada (Madrid) for the first time. Results: The median number of visits per patient was six in Leganés and three in Fuenlabrada (p < 0.001). The mean length of treatment was more than twice as long in Leganés (276 days) than in Fuenlabrada (119 days) (p < 0.001). Stratified analysis showed that the treatments provided in Fuenlabrada involved fewer visits, irrespective of the health professional in charge (psychiatrist or psychologist), the treatment modality prescribed (individual psychotherapy, other psychotherapies or no explicit treatment prescribed), or whether the patient abandoned treatment or the discharge was agreed. Similar results were found for the length of treatment. Conclusions: The different clinical styles illustrate the difficulty of developing useful risk adjustment systems in mental health. The differences in resource consumption and costs cannot easily be attributed to patient-related variables, but are due rather to the intervention provided, which depends on the staff.

Keywords : Community mental health services utilization; Health services research; Child and adolescent.

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