Mixed Results for Intensive Home Care for Psychiatric Crises

Kelli Whitlock Burton

July 26, 2022

Intensive home treatment may offer an alternative to inpatient care for patients in acute psychiatric crisis — but the intervention is no outright substitute, new research suggests.

In a randomized controlled trial of more than 200 participants, intensive home treatment was associated with a 34% decrease in the number of inpatient hospital days in the year following therapy compared with usual care.

However, there was no difference between treatment groups in improvement in quality of life or patient satisfaction; and a reduction in symptom severity noted after 6 weeks of home treatment faded within 6 months.

"We found no differences in admission rates either, which suggests that intensive home treatment is not a substitute for inpatient care but a different treatment opportunity for psychiatric patients in crisis," Jurgen Cornelis, MD, Arkin Institute for Mental Health, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues write.

The findings were published online June 30 in Lancet Psychiatry.

Increasingly Popular

"Intensive home treatment is increasingly popular as an alternative to hospitalization. It was developed to prevent or reduce levels of inpatient care and facilitate the transition between inpatient care and low-intensity outpatient care," the investigators write.

However, there have only previously been two randomized controlled trials published that assessed this type of care, resulting in "somewhat conflicting findings," they add.

For the current study, participants presented to psychiatric emergency wards at two medical centers in the Netherlands. They were only included if they were able to offer informed consent within 14 days.

The intensive home treatment group (n = 183) worked with a multidisciplinary team that designed a care plan tailored to their specific crisis. Treatment components included pharmacotherapy, up to three home visits each day, psychoeducation, brief supportive and cognitive behavioral therapy, social care, and support and empowerment of the patient's informal care system.

The usual care group (n = 63) commonly received a combination of highly intensive inpatient treatment in the first phase and outpatient treatment up to two times a week in the second phase. Treatment included similar components as those in intensive home treatment.

The most common primary clinical diagnosis in both groups was mood disorder, followed by psychotic disorders, personality disorders, or anxiety disorders.

The home treatment group had a significantly higher total mean item score on the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) at baseline (2.23 vs 2.04, P = .04).

Mixed Results

Results at 6 weeks showed the number of hospital days was 25.3% lower in the home treatment group compared with those who received usual care.

That trend continued at 1 year, with the intensive home treatment group recording 36.6% fewer hospital days than the usual care group (mean, 42.5 days vs 67 days, respectively; P = .03).

However, the number of patients who were admitted in the first 6 weeks and at 1 year stayed the same, as did the mean number of admissions per patient over 12 months.

The home treatment group reported significantly fewer symptoms on the BPRS depression and anxiety scale at 6 weeks vs the usual treatment group (P = .025), but that difference was not maintained after 6 months.

The number of adverse events, including suicide attempts, was similar between the groups. Three patients in the home treatment group and two in the usual care group died by suicide.

"Future research should focus on which components of intensive home treatment or hospitalization can be used when, for whom, and meet which goals, so that both hospital care and intensive home treatment can be used proportionally and efficiently for patients in psychiatric crisis," the investigators write.

Not Generalizable?

In an accompanying editorial, Claire Henderson, PhD, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London, United Kingdom, noted that generalizing the study's results to other countries could be problematic, especially to regions such as North America, which have shorter lengths of stay for psychiatric hospitalization.

"Future trials looking at intensive home treatment would be most informative if done in countries with relatively short lengths of stay, and without separate crisis services for people receiving assertive community treatment," Henderson writes.

The study was funded by De Stichting tot Steun Vereniging voor Christelijke Verzorging van Geestes-en Zenuwzieken. The investigators and Henderson have reported no relevant financial relationships.

Lancet Psychiatry. Published online June 30, 2022. Abstract, Editorial

Kelli Whitlock Burton is a reporter for Medscape Medical News who covers psychiatry and neurology.

For more Medscape Psychiatry news, join us on Twitter and Facebook


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.