Gain Emergency Room Efficiencies by Improving Care For Behavioral Health Patients

Faced with a surge of behavioral health patients presenting to the emergency department, Vituity physicians developed a solution that provides better care for these patients while improving throughput for all patients seen in the emergency department.

Published June 16, 2022

The Challenge

Minimize ER wait times and care delays

From 2006 to 2021, the percentage of emergency department patients with mental health and substance use concerns more than doubled to 12% of all patients. Unfortunately, most emergency departments s are ill-equipped to treat behavioral health complaints, and these patients often endure long wait times and delays in therapeutic care. These delays for individual patients also create department-wide backups that lead to delays for all patients in the emergency department.

Our Solution

Enhance care for patients in psychiatric crisis through Emergency Psychiatric Intervention (EPI)

In 2015, Vituity physicians recognized the growing number of patients seeking behavioral healthcare in the emergency department. We brought together a multidisciplinary team of emergency physicians and psychiatrists who developed the Emergency Psychiatric Intervention (EPI) toolkit. EPI ensures that emergency physicians are empowered to more efficiently evaluate and treat behavioral health patients from the moment they enter the emergency department through discharge.

At its core, the EPI approach includes expertise and proven results in three areas:

  • Elimination of over-processing
  • Risk stratification and split flow processing
  • Early and appropriate medication management

By eliminating unnecessary roadblocks to expedite treatment, patients receive earlier assessments and differentiated care based on the diagnosed need. This is achieved through a comprehensive education program and toolkit on behavioral healthcare best practices that minimize patient holding and improve care quality and patient experience.

The Results

Better, faster care for all emergency department patients

EPI was first piloted at four AMITA hospital locations in and around Chicago. Before implementation, all sites experienced high volumes of behavioral health patients in their emergency departments and were looking for a risk stratification method and new medication protocols that lead to more efficient and accurate diagnoses and treatment and faster discharge rates.

The participating locations achieved remarkable results within six months after implementing EPI. Across all four hospitals, teams dramatically improved the quality of care and achieved faster throughput times, leading to measurable financial ROI for the health system.

  • 43-minute decrease in time to provider across four hospitals
  • Use of restraints reduced by over 50%
  • $480,000 ROI for the health system


When we effectively and compassionately serve all emergency department patients, including those with behavioral health conditions, the impact is profound:

  • Hospitals and health systems improve clinical quality, profitability, and patient scores
  • Emergency Departments achieve higher throughput and better care for all, with fewer behavioral patient admissions and more stable, engaged staff
  • Providers gain new confidence in their ability to heal, rekindling the joy of practicing medicine

Thanks to the positive response by all stakeholders across health systems throughout the country, Vituity was recognized in 2021 by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

Partnering to improve patient lives

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