BackgroundThe decision to discharge a patient from a hospital is a complex process governed by many medical and non-medical factors, while the actual reasons for discharge frequently remain ill-defined.
AimTo define relevant discharge criteria as perceived by doctors, nurses and patients for the development of a standard hospital discharge policy, we collected actual reasons and most pivotal medical and organisational criteria for discharge among all stakeholders.
SettingA tertiary referral university teaching hospital.
MethodsWe conducted a mixed methods analysis, using patient questionnaires, interviews and a focus group with caregivers, and observations during the daily rounds of doctors, nurses and patients during their hospital stay. Fourteen wards of the Surgery, Paediatrics and Neurology departments contributed.
ResultsWe observed 426 patients during their hospital stay. Forty doctors and nurses were interviewed, and 7 senior nurses attended a focus group. The most commonly used discharge criteria were clinical factors, organisational discharge issues and patient-related factors. A total of 269 patients returned their questionnaires. About one third of the adult patients and nearly half of the children (or their parents) felt their personal situation and assistance needed at home was insufficiently taken into account before discharge. Patients were least satisfied with the information given about what they were allowed to do or should avoid after discharge and their involvement in the planning of their discharge. Thus, besides obvious medical reasons for discharge, several non-medical reasons were signalled by all stakeholders as important issues to be improved.
ConclusionsA set of discharge criteria could be defined that is useful for a more uniform hospital discharge policy that may help reduce unnecessary length of stay and improve patient satisfaction.