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Medical Records Flag for Suicide Risk: Predictors and Subsequent Use of Care Among Veterans With Substance Use Disorders.

Berg JM, Malte CA, Reger MA, Hawkins EJ. Medical Records Flag for Suicide Risk: Predictors and Subsequent Use of Care Among Veterans With Substance Use Disorders. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). 2018 Sep 1; 69(9):993-1000.

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OBJECTIVE: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system established policies to include patient record flags (PRFs) for high suicide risk in the electronic medical record to alert providers and to increase health care contacts. This study identified predictors of new PRFs and described health care utilization before and after PRF initiation among VA patients with substance use disorders. METHODS: The sample included patients ages = 18 who received a substance use disorder diagnosis in 2012 (N = 474,946). Demographic, clinical, and utilization predictors of PRFs were identified by multivariable logistic regression. Changes in short-term (three months) and longer-term (12 months) health care utilization before and after PRF initiation were compared by negative binomial regression. RESULTS: A total of 8,913 patients received PRFs. Demographic predictors of PRF initiation included being younger than 35, white, and homeless. Clinical predictors were cocaine, opioid, and sedative use disorders; posttraumatic stress, psychotic, bipolar, and depressive disorders; and diagnosis of a suicide attempt. Patients with PRFs averaged 1.33 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.29-1.38) times more primary care visits, 2.29 (CI = 2.24-2.34) times more mental health visits, 4.10 (CI = 3.80-4.42) times more substance use visits, and fewer (incidence rate ratio = .55, CI = .53-.58) emergency department visits in the three months following compared with the three months before PRF initiation. Modest increases in mental health- and substance use--related days hospitalized were observed. CONCLUSIONS: Veterans received significantly more health care services after PRF initiation. Further research is warranted on the effects of PRFs on clinical outcomes, such as suicide behaviors.

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