Researchers identify characteristics of highest utilizers fo
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Dropping out of high school, having schizophrenia, or being diagnosed with a co-occurring personality disorder increases the likelihood of someone becoming a "high utilizer" of inpatient psychiatric hospital services, according to a new study. A high utilizer is someone who has been admitted three or more times within one year.

For their findings, researchers used machine learning to analyze de-identified electronic health record data from 9,840 patients admitted to UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center.

A machine-learning algorithm called the 'elastic net' was able to predict utilization by including all of the predictors in the model at the same time. The elastic net quantifies each predictor's relationship to the outcome, making it much easier to determine which predictors are strongest.

By identifying years of education, a schizophrenia diagnosis, and a co-occurring personality disorder diagnosis, as the main predictors of high utilization, researchers were able to highlight suggestions for each predictor:

--Less than 12 years of education: When working with psychiatric patients with limited education, mental health providers should routinely assess for mental health literacy and connect patients with educational support programs.

--Schizophrenia and co-occurring personality disorders: Patients experiencing the first episode of psychosis, or the first signs of schizophrenia, comprise a subpopulation requiring enhanced efforts and prioritization for better identification and treatment at this critical phase of the illness.

"Using results from this current study, we will be able to better identify patients at high risk for rehospitalization. This would help us design and provide new treatment modalities to reduce their likelihood of future hospitalization" said the author.