Hoag Expands Psychiatry Liaison Team

Many would think this would be the standard of care. But when Hoag introduced the Consult and Liaison Psychiatry Program to its Irvine and Newport Beach hospitals, with support from the donor community, it changed the landscape of care in the community.

“What Hoag is doing for mental health is so important. We are truly looking at patients from holistic perspective,” said Kambria Hittelman, PsyD, director of neurobehavioral health at the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute at Hoag. “We are known for our excellence in acute care, but it is important for the community to understand that when they come to the emergency department, we can also take care of addiction patients and patients with psychiatric issues. We can more completely commit to the community and serve our mission.”

When a patient comes to an emergency department in need of psychiatric care, hospitals often have to call in someone from the outside. The wait can sometimes take hours – sometimes days. Hoag’s commitment to treating patients and their families efficiently, compassionately and holistically spurred the hospital to do something different.

Hoag’s newly expanded psychiatry consult program collaborates with the team to give consults and refer patients and families to appropriate resources quickly. Two psychiatrists also round, or circulate through the hospital, seeing patients as part of their regular workday.

This solution means patients will be seen faster, resources will be offered sooner, and complex neurobehavioral problems will be dealt with more effectively. By addressing psychiatric issues, liaisons also help the rest of the medical team treat whatever urgent medical issue brought the patient into the hospital.

“Right now, we have a team of five that can assist and consult with physicians for any issue, whether the psychiatric episode is caused by medication, or if it is an underlying psychiatric condition that hasn’t been treated,” Hittelman said. “We have had families tell us that they are so grateful that we had someone right there who could assess and help their loved ones.”

“Patients really feel like it completes our service here at Hoag,” she said. “They feel supported, that there’s someone they can turn to.”