Monitoring child mental health related emergency department visits in New York City

How to Cite

Olson, D., van der Mei, W., Lim, S., Yoon, C., Kull, M., & Davila, M. (2017). Monitoring child mental health related emergency department visits in New York City. Online Journal of Public Health Informatics, 9(1).


ObjectiveTo assess the use of syndromic surveillance to assess trends inmental health-related emergency department (ED) visits amongschool-aged children and adolescents in New York City (NYC).IntroductionFrom 2001-2011, mental health-related hospitalizations and EDvisits increased among United States children nationwide [1]. Duringthis period, mental health-related hospitalizations among NYCchildren increased nearly 23% [2]. To estimate mental health-relatedED visits in NYC and assess the use of syndromic surveillance chiefcomplaint data to monitor these visits, we compared trends from anear real-time syndromic system with those from a less timely, codedED visit database.MethodsThe NYC ED syndromic surveillance system receives anonymizedpatient chief complaint and basic demographic data for nearly everyED visit citywide to provide timely surveillance information tohealth authorities. Using NYC ED syndromic surveillance datafrom 2003-2015, we applied previously developed definitions forgeneral psychiatric syndromes. We aggregated ED visits by agegroup (5-12 years, 13-17 years, and 18-20 years), geography, andtemporality. Syndromic data were compared with Statewide Planningand Research Collaborative System (SPARCS) data from 2006-2014which reported mental health diagnosis (ICD-9), treatment, service,and basic demographics for patients visiting facilities in NYC. Usingthese two data sources, we compared daily visit patterns and annualtrends overall as well as stratified by age group, area-based poverty(ZIP code), and time of visit.ResultsBoth syndromic surveillance and SPARCS data for NYC showedan increasing trend during the period. While both showed relativeincreases with similar slopes, mental health-related chief complaintdata captured fewer overall visits than the ICD-9 coded SPARCSdata. Trends in syndromic data during 2003-2015 differed by age-group and area-based poverty, e.g., among children ages 5-12 yearsthe annual proportion of mental health-related ED visits increasedroughly 3-fold from 1.2% to 3.8% in the poorest areas, which wasgreater than the increase in the richest areas (1.7% to 2.6%). Seasonal,day-of-week, and school holiday patterns found far fewer visits duringthe periods of NYC public school breaks (Figure).ConclusionsWe conclude that syndromic surveillance data can provide areliable indicator of mental health-related ED visit trends. Thesefindings suggest potential benefit of syndromic surveillance data asthey may help capture temporal and spatial clustering of events in amuch more timely manner than the >1 year delay in availability ofED discharge data. Next steps include a qualitative study exploringthe causes of these patterns and the role of various factors drivingthem, as well as use of patient disposition and matched data to bettercharacterize ED visit patient outcomes.
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