Minnesota Hospital Association


August 11, 2016

Nearly 1 in 5 mental health bed days in Minnesota hospitals is potentially avoidable

At least 134 patients every day could have received care in a more appropriate setting   

ST. PAUL – A new study by the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) found that nearly one in five days mental health patients spend admitted to inpatient community hospital psychiatric units is potentially avoidable. “Potentially avoidable days” are days that mental health patients spent admitted to the hospital when they would more appropriately have been treated in a different care setting.   

The first-of-its-kind study tracked de-identified mental health patients admitted to inpatient psychiatric units at 20 participating hospitals and health systems throughout Minnesota between March 15 and April 30, 2016. Of the 32,520 total mental health bed days in all participating hospitals, 6,052 – or 19 percent – were identified as potentially avoidable. This number translates to approximately 48,000 potentially avoidable days in a year in just 20 of Minnesota’s 147 hospitals.   

While some individual hospitals or health systems maintained their own data and others had anecdotal information, MHA’s research was a deliberate process to identify and quantify barriers to accessing mental health care in Minnesota. No current robust statewide data on potentially avoidable days previously existed. 

“Mental illnesses affect us all. Behind these numbers are patients and families who are not getting the care they need in the right place at the right time,” said Dr. Rahul Koranne, MHA’s chief medical officer. “On any given day, 134 patients across these 20 hospitals could have been more appropriately served in a different care setting. Bottlenecks exist throughout the mental health care delivery system, resulting in patients remaining in community hospitals for extended periods of time – which in turn means that hospital beds are unavailable to others in the community experiencing mental health crises.”   

The study identified 26 reasons why potentially avoidable days occurred. These reasons can be grouped into two main categories:

  • 64 percent of potentially avoidable days occurred due to lack of space in a state-run mental health hospital, residential treatment center, nursing home, group home, chemical dependency treatment service or other setting.
  • 30 percent of potentially avoidable days occurred due to social service or government agency delays, including identifying an appropriate treatment location for a patient, completing agency approvals or other administrative processes or resolving legal proceedings involving the patient.   

The most frequently cited reasons for potentially avoidable days were lack of beds at state-operated Community Behavioral Health Hospitals (CBHHs), chemical dependency treatment facilities, Intensive Residential Treatment Services (IRTS) and Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center (AMRTC).   

“Minnesota’s hospitals and health systems believe every Minnesotan deserves access to safe, effective and affordable care to treat mental illnesses. Our study provides better data to inform regional and statewide conversations about mental health service delivery and the state resources needed to effectively serve Minnesota communities,” said Koranne. “This is a shared community responsibility. Hospitals and health systems are committed to working with stakeholders including the state, the Department of Human Services, counties and other community partners like mental health advocates and local law enforcement to make a difference for patients and families.”   

The following 20 hospitals and health systems participated in the study:

  • Allina Health – Abbott Northwestern Hospital
  • Allina Health – Cambridge Medical Center
  • Allina Health – Mercy Hospital
  • Allina Health – New Ulm Medical Center
  • Allina Health – Owatonna Hospital
  • Allina Health – United Hospital
  • Allina Health – Unity Hospital
  • CentraCare Health – St. Cloud Hospital
  • Essentia Health – Duluth
  • Essentia Health – St. Joseph’s Medical Center
  • HealthEast Care System – St. Joseph’s Hospital
  • Hennepin County Medical Center
  • Hutchinson Health
  • Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin (Austin)
  • Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato
  • Mayo Clinic Hospital - Rochester, Saint Marys Campus
  • North Memorial Medical Center
  • PrairieCare Brooklyn Park
  • Regions Hospital
  • St. Luke’s Hospital   

The full report is available on MHA’s website: www.mnhospitals.org/policy-advocacy/priority-issues/mental-health.  

The Minnesota Hospital Association represents 137 hospitals and health systems, which provide quality care for their patients and meet the needs of their communities.   

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