These problems are much more likely at large hospitals, which tend to provide more advanced, specialized surgeries not accessible at smaller, community institutions,the researchers say. Patients often have to travel a great distance for the procedures, so hospital delays become expensive for both them and the care providers.
The study findings cover surgical discharge data from fiscal year 2007 covering more than 7,800 surgery patients who collectively spent 35,500 nights at the facility.
"This gives us a good snapshot of the pressures at work in a busy non-profit hospital," Golden adds. "Other institutions may handle the challenges somewhat differently, but the pressures are widespread and these results call for some introspection."
"Too often, the biggest problem is that hospitals just don't plan ahead, and this is what gets them in trouble" Golden says. "There are logistical alternatives to sending a patient home too soon."
He suggests that surgeons use checklists before discharging the patient. "They know better than we do what questions should be asked - questions that would force the surgeon to think about whether they were discharging the patient for the right reason."
Recently, for example this checklist approach has been used successfully to reduce hospital bacterial infections, Golden points out.
Also, he suggests that hospitals increase the flexibility of where patients go post-surgery. Allowing them to be moved to units with empty beds, for example, could also lessen premature discharges.
Though, this may increase costs in the short run, dischargin
|Contact: Neil Tickner|
University of Maryland