Busy hospitals discharge patients too soon, see higher readmissions

Patients that are discharged during the busiest times for hospitals are 50 percent more likely to come back in within three days, according to research published in Health Care Management Science. Two new studies from the University of Maryland suggest that that revenue from surgery is driving patients going home too early.

They looked at occupancy rates, day of the week, staffing levels and surgical volume at the large, academic medical center and concluded that readmissions come from poor planning.

"Too often, the biggest problem is that hospitals just don't plan ahead, and this is what gets them in trouble," Bruce Golden, a university professor, said in a Friday statement. "There are logistical alternatives to sending a patient home too soon."

Study authors did note that the problem was more likely to happen at large hospitals not only because they have resources to provide advanced surgeries, but patients traveling to the facilities also may put pressure on the hospital to avoid delays.

Study authors recommended hospitals use checklists before discharge to avoid infections, for example. Golden also suggested moving patients to units with empty beds rather than sending patients home prematurely. Although doing so might up costs initially, Golden said it will save the hospital in the long-term.

For more information:
- see the research announcement
- here’s the study on hospital utilization and the study on discharge practices

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