Patients Leave the Hospital Earlier than Expected on Busy Days

According to the results of a hospital analysis, published in the Summer 2008 issue of the RAND Journal of Economics, patients are more likely to be discharged earlier from the hospital on busy days. The authors say the disparity has “emerged as a key policy priority”.

Rajiv Sharma, Miron Stano, and Renu Gehring looked at Oregon hospital data that might reveal how demands on hospitals affect patient care. The group studied 380,000 hospital discharge records. The information was taken from methods designed to detect discriminatory practices in hospitals. No such behaviors were found, but the researchers discovered that hospital patients were sent home earlier than expected when demand for hospital beds is high, "without the need to control for differences across patient groups in their health status or care seeking behavior."

It seems that hospitals would rather send people home than refuse admission, a practice that is likely necessary to deliver care to those who are acutely ill. The consequences of sending a patient home early from the hospital can lead to complications and re-admission. The analysis didn’t lend any solution to the problem, though the results are interesting.

What the Data Means to You

As healthcare consumers, it might be important to be aware of hospital constraints. You can take charge of your health by remembering the following:

Advocate for yourself or loved one.

If you don’t believe you are well enough to go home from the
hospital, speak with the social worker about community resources.

Make arrangements for home care services when possible.

Share your concerns with your doctor.

Make sure a doctor’s appointment is available soon after discharge to avoid complications.

If your symptoms worsen, return to the hospital for an examination.

Ask questions about your health status – you will have more information about what
to expect during recovery.

Seek complete understanding of your medications and make certain you have
prescriptions in hand.

It’s important to know there might be a reason other than wellness involved in hospital discharge planning.