ED utilization of medical clearance testing for psychiatric admission: National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey analysis

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Routine medical clearance testing of emergency department (ED) patients with acute psychiatric illnesses in the absence of a medical indication has minimal proven utility. Little is known about the variations in clinical practice of ordering medical clearance tests.


This study was an analysis of data from the annual United States National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2010 to 2014. The study population was defined as ED visits by patients ≥ 18 years old admitted to a psychiatric facility. We sought to determine the percentage of these ED visits in which at least one medical clearance test was ordered. Using a multivariate logistic regression model, we also evaluated whether patient visit factors or regional variation was associated with use of medical clearance tests.


A medical clearance test was ordered in 80.4% of ED visits ending with a psychiatric admission. Multivariate logistic regression demonstrated a statistically significant increased odds ratio (OR) of medical clearance testing based on age (OR 1.02, 95%CI 1.01, 1.03), among visits involving an injury or poisoning (OR 2.38, 95%CI 1.54, 3.68), and in the Midwest region as compared to the Northeast region (OR 2.2, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.09, 4.46), after adjusting for other predictors.


Our study demonstrated that, on a national level, 4 out of 5 ED visits resulting in a psychiatric facility admission had a medical clearance test ordered. Future research is needed to investigate the reasons underlying the discrepancies in ordering patterns across the U.S., including the effect of local psychiatric admission policies.

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