The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of timing of a psychiatry consultation during pediatric hospitalization on length of hospital stay and total hospitalization charges.


The charts of 279 pediatric patients (totaling 308 consultations) referred to the psychiatry consultation liaison service at a freestanding tertiary pediatric hospital between January 1, 2010, and June 30, 2010 were retrospectively analyzed. The variables analyzed included the following: patient demographic characteristics; dates of admission, psychiatric consultation, and discharge; psychiatric diagnoses based on the psychiatric diagnostic evaluation; psychiatric treatment disposition; and illness severity and total charges associated with the medical stay.


Earlier psychiatry consultation was associated with shorter length of stay and lower hospitalization charges after adjusting for psychiatric functioning, physical illness severity, and psychiatric disposition. Poorer psychiatric functioning and milder physical illness were associated with shorter referral time.


Timely involvement of psychiatry consultation services during a medical or surgical hospitalization was associated with reductions in length of stay and total hospital charges in pediatric settings. These findings have important effects on quality of care via decreasing burden on the patient and family and on the medical system resources. Educating pediatric health care providers about the importance of early psychiatry consultation regardless of physical illness severity or psychiatric acuity will likely improve resource management for patients and hospitals.

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