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BACKGROUND: Although antipsychotic polytherapy is considered appropriate in limited circumstances (e.g., during a brief “cross-titration” period when switching medications), its increasing prevalence indicates use beyond this limited scope. Despite absence of support in the medical literature and higher costs, antipsychotic polytherapy is common in the treatment of schizophrenia and related disorders. The highest utilization of antipsychotic polytherapy occurs on psychiatric inpatient units, and in 2008, the Joint Commission released the first set of 7 hospital-based inpatient psychiatric services (HBIPS) core measures, 2 of which assess antipsychotic polytherapy at time of discharge.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the effect on antipsychotic polytherapy at time of discharge of a 2-part quality improvement program composed of educational seminars and prescriber-specific feedback provided to 11 psychiatrists in 4 acute inpatient psychiatric units in 2 hospitals.

METHODS: In a regional academic health care system, we determined the prevalence of antipsychotic monotherapy and polytherapy at time of discharge for all patients discharged on standing antipsychotic medications during 3 periods: (a) a 3-month baseline period (August 2006 through October 2006); (b) in July 2007, after delivery of 4 educational luncheon seminars to 11 psychiatrists from November 2006 through June 2007; and (c) in June 2008, following the provision of monthly prescriber-specific audit feedback from August 2007 through June 2008. To prepare nurses for the change and address possible safety concerns, an educational module was delivered to the psychiatric nursing staff at “best practice” day lectures held in the first quarter of 2007. General themes in the educational presentations included literature-based reviews of (a) safety and efficacy of antipsychotic polytherapy, (b) medical risks of antipsychotic medications, (c) specific versus nonspecific effects of these medications, and (d) effectiveness of first- versus second-generation antipsychotic medications. The prescriber-specific audit feedback was provided in paper form and masked the identity of the other prescribers. The chief of service reviewed audit feedback individually with each psychiatrist on a quarterly basis. The primary outcome measure was the percentage of patients prescribed 2 or more antipsychotics at discharge. A secondary outcome measure was the percentage of patients prescribed 3 or more antipsychotics at discharge. Differences in the primary outcome measure, comparing (a) July 2007 with the baseline period and (b) June 2008 with July 2007, were analyzed using Fisher’s Exact tests. The Cochran-Armitage test for trend was used to assess the relationship between the primary outcome measure and the extent of the intervention, measured as the 3 time periods. For the secondary outcome measure, the Goodman-Kruskal gamma test for ordered categorical data was calculated to examine the association between the proportion of patients receiving 1, 2, or 3 or more antipsychotics at discharge and the 3 time periods.

RESULTS: The percentage of patients prescribed 2 or more antipsychotics at discharge declined from 33.9% at baseline (132 of 389 patients), to 21.8% after delivery of the educational modules (44 of 202 patients, P = 0.002), and to 12.2% after audit feedback (18 of 147 patients, P = 0.023; Cochran-Armitage test for trend P < 0.001). When antipsychotic use was classified as 1, 2, or 3 or more antipsychotic medications, more extensive intervention was associated with decreased combination use (Goodman-Kruskal gamma = 0.39, P < 0.001). In the baseline period, 5.9% of patients were prescribed 3 or more antipsychotics at discharge. Following completion of the educational and audit components, respectively, the proportion of patients prescribed 3 or more antipsychotics declined to 2.5% and then to 0.0%.

CONCLUSION: Educational modules presented to psychiatrists and nurses in group settings were associated with a decrease in the rate of prescribing 2 or more antipsychotics at discharge from acute psychiatric inpatient units. Addition of monthly audit feedback provided to psychiatrists was associated with further decreases.

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For non-commercial academic use only.