Introduction: In the United States, the number of patients presenting to the emergency department for a mental health concern is significant and expected to grow. The breadth of the medical evaluation of these patients is controversial. Attempts have been made to establish a standard evaluation for these patients, but to date no nationally accepted standards exist.
Objective: A task force of the American Association of Emergency Psychiatry, consisting of physicians from Emergency Medicine, physicians from Psychiatry, and a psychologist was convened to form consensus recommendations on the medical evaluation of psychiatric patients presenting to emergency departments.
Method: The task force reviewed existing literature on the topic of medical evaluation of psychiatric patients in the emergency department (Part I) and then combined this with expert consensus (Part II).
Results: In part I, terminological issues and existing evidence on medical exams and laboratory studies of psychiatric patients in the emergency department are discussed.
Conclusions: Emergency physicians should work cooperatively with psychiatric receiving facilities in order to decrease unnecessary testing while increasing the quality of medical screening exams for psychiatric patients who present to emergency departments.