Severe mental illness diagnoses often get missed in patients hospitalized for physical health problems, according to a new study.
Researchers analyzed data from nearly 13,800 U.K. adults who were diagnosed with severe mental illness, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, between 2006 and 2017 and who had more than 45,700 emergency hospital admissions over the period.
Over that time, mental illnesses were recorded at admission 70% of the time. The rate rose from 48% in 2006 to 75% in 2017, according to the University College London study published recently in the journal PLoS Medicine.
The researchers also found that the specific mental health diagnosis wasn't always recorded at admission. For example, schizophrenia was recorded in 56% of patients with the condition and bipolar disorder in only 50%, meaning that the conditions may be mistaken as another, possibly less serious, mental illness.
Another finding was that ethnic minority patients were more likely to have unrecorded mental health diagnoses. Patients from Black African or Caribbean backgrounds were 38% more likely to have their diagnosis unrecorded than whites.
"When someone is admitted to hospital, it's important that the medical staff are aware of their other conditions, as these might affect what treatments are best for them, in order to provide holistic care," said corresponding author Hassan Mansour, a research assistant in the division of psychiatry at UCL.
While there are signs that clinicians are more often identifying severe mental illnesses in hospital patients than they were a decade ago, more needs to be done to address ethnic disparities, he added.
"The disparities we found between ethnic groups are concerning because previous studies have identified particularly poor health outcomes for people from minority ethnic groups with severe mental illnesses. Training in culturally sensitive diagnosis may be needed to reduce inequalities in medical care," Mansour said.