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Adolescent utilization of eating disorder higher level of care: roles of family-based treatment adherence and demographic factors

Outpatient family-based treatment (FBT) is effective in treating restrictive eating disorders among adolescents. However, little is known about whether FBT reduces higher level of care (HLOC) utilization or if utilization of HLOC is associated with patient characteristics. This study examined associations between utilization of eating disorder related care (HLOC and outpatient treatment) and reported adherence to FBT and patient characteristics in a large integrated health system. This retrospective cohort study examined 4101 adolescents who received care for restrictive eating disorders at Kaiser Permanente Northern California. A survey was sent to each medical center to identify treatment teams as high FBT adherence (hFBT) and low FBT adherence (lFBT). Outpatient medical and psychiatry encounters and HLOC, including medical hospitalizations and higher-level psychiatric care as well as patient characteristics were extracted from the EHR and examined over 12 months post-index. 2111 and 1990 adolescents were treated in the hFBT and lFBT, respectively. After adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, initial percent median BMI, and comorbid mental health diagnoses, there were no differences in HLOC or outpatient utilization between hFBT and lFBT. Females had higher odds of any utilization compared with males. Compared to White adolescents, Latinos/Hispanics had lower odds of HLOC utilization. Asian, Black, and Latino/Hispanic adolescents had lower odds of psychiatric outpatient care than Whites. Reported FBT adherence was not associated with HLOC utilization in this sample. However, significant disparities across patient characteristics were found in the utilization of psychiatric care for eating disorders. More efforts are needed to understand treatment pathways that are accessible and effective for all populations with eating disorders. Adolescents with restrictive eating treated by Family-Based Treatment (FBT) teams had better early weight gain but no differences in the use of intensive outpatient, residential, partial hospital programs or inpatient psychiatry care when compared to those treated by teams with a low adherence to the FBT approach. Factors such as sex, race, ethnicity, mood disorders, and suicidality were associated with the use of psychiatric services. These findings are consistent with previously documented systematic disparities in accessing psychiatric services across patient demographics and should be used to inform the development of proposed care models that are more inclusive and accessible to all patients.

Authors: Lau, Josephine S;Kline-Simon, Andrea H;Schmittdiel, Julie A;Sterling, Stacy A

J Eat Disord. 2024 Feb 02;12(1):22. Epub 2024-02-02.

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