Managing complex patients on a medical psychiatric unit: an observational study of university hospital costs associated with medical service use, length of stay, and psychiatric intervention

C. Leue*, G.A.M. Driessen, J.J. Strik, M. Drukker, R.W. Stockbrugger, P.M. Kuijpers, A.A.M. Masclee, J.J. van Os

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Although there is a suggestion that the medical psychiatric unit (MPU) may reduce length of hospital stay (LOS), little is known about costs in terms of medical service use and psychiatric interventions in MPU care. METHOD: A record linkage study was conducted, linking cost data of hospital medical service use, LOS, and hospital psychiatric interventions to patients admitted to the MPU of the Maastricht University Medical Centre (MUMC) between 1998 and 2004. The data set was analyzed to enable comparison between cost changes of the same complex patient population following either MPU index admission or index admissions to reference MUMC medical wards. RESULTS: Comparisons revealed lower costs of medical service use in favor of the MPU (-euro104; 95% CI -euro174 to -euro35; P<.01). However, cost of psychiatric intervention and cost of LOS were higher after MPU admission (respectively, +euro165; 95% CI +euro25 to +euro305; P<.05; and +euro202; 95% CI +euro170 to +euro235; P<.001). Total costs were higher after MPU admission compared to medical ward admission (+euro263; 95% CI +euro68 to +euro458; P<.05). These differences were not moderated by somatic diagnosis or previous pattern of admissions. CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that patients at the interface of psychiatric and somatic morbidity are diagnosed and treated adequately at the MPU, leading to a decrease in medical service use and an appropriate increase in exposure to psychiatric interventions. These results are specifically generalizable to MPUs with a focus on psychosomatic conditions, for instance, somatoform disorders or affective disorders with comorbid somatic diseases. However, failure to show cost savings in terms of LOS compared to medical wards outweighs cost-benefit derived from lower medical service use, suggesting that MPU activities may gain in cost-effectiveness if shifted more to outpatient psychosomatic care solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-302
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


  • Integrated health care
  • Managed care programs
  • Comorbidity
  • Hospital units
  • Medical care costs
  • Health service research

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