Inpatient Bed Tracking: State Responses to Need for Inpatient Care

08/06/2019

States have begun to collect and post information on bed availability (i.e., create bed registries or bed tracking systems) as a tool for providers, patients, and caregivers to identify open beds more efficiently. In the absence of a bed registry, emergency room staff, patients, or other providers must call multiple hospitals or residential settings to determine if there is a slot available that would be appropriate given the patient’s needs.

Little is known about states bed registries, their effectiveness, and challenges faced in their execution and utilization. ASPE contracted with RTI to study whether states were making information on open beds available to consumers, the impact of effect that inpatient bed tracking had on patient access, and the challenges that remain with inpatient bed tracking systems. To collect this information, RTI conducted an environmental scan and 13 interviews with 18 stakeholders in five states. Through the environmental scan and discussions with stakeholders, the authors found significant variation among states in how the registries were operating, the types of behavioral health providers they included, and perceptions of their usefulness. In some states, systems to track the availability of psychiatric hospital beds have been challenged by the reluctance of hospitals to update information on open beds frequently enough to be useful given rapid patient turnover. Emergency department staff noted that the system does not negate the need for them to call hospitals to confirm that there is still an open bed that is appropriate for the patient’s needs and that relationships among hospitals and emergency departments and other crisis system staff may be more efficient than using the bed registries. However, some states reported that the registries were very helpful in locating open beds as well as in documenting the need for additional psychiatric beds.

This report was prepared under contract #HHSP233201600021I between HHS's ASPE/DALTCP and Research Triangle Institute. For additional information about this subject, you can visit the DALTCP home page at https://aspe.hhs.gov/office-disability-aging-and-long-term-care-policy-daltcp or contact the ASPE Project Officers, Helen Lamont and Laurel Fuller, at HHS/ASPE/DALTCP, Room 424E, H.H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201; Helen.Lamont@hhs.gov.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions and views expressed in this report are those of the authors. They do not reflect the views of the Department of Health and Human Services, the contractor or any other funding organization. This report was completed and submitted on September 21, 2018.

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