• schizophrenia;
  • health services research;
  • ambulatory care;
  • physician's practice patterns;
  • treatment;
  • Spain

Objective:  The objective is to describe and characterize patterns of service use by out-patients with schizophrenia in Spain.

Method:  A representative treated prevalence sample of cases with schizophrenia was selected from four Spanish health areas. The evaluation included health service use, clinical severity, functioning and disability. Statistical analysis was based on hierarchical clustering methods.

Results:  A total of 356 patients were included in the analysis. Five patterns of health service use were defined: heavy out-patient mental health users; mental health and general health service users; heavy hospital service users; nursing service users; low users of mental health services. Patients in each group showed differences in clinical and disability status. Patterns of health service use showed consistency, but also variability, among the geographical areas.

Conclusion:  Development and organization of mental health services should take into account the combinations of services patients most frequently use.