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Reducing the Length of Stay for a Hospital Patient

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Beds are a valuable commodity for any hospital. If there is a lack of available beds on a ward, patients can end up waiting in the Emergency Department for a lot longer than is clinically ideal. The problem is that for beds to become available, patients need to be discharged.

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This means that longer than necessary stays in hospital have a knock on effect on the entire operating effectiveness of the hospital. Patients also benefit from being released from hospital, to recover in more familiar surroundings.

So, how can hospitals work to reduce the stay of its patients? Here are some methods that health care professionals look to adopt to help with this issue.

Planning discharge from date of admission

If a patient enters a hospital for a recognised procedure, such as a hysterectomy, normal recovery timescales are known. Therefore, discharge can be planned right from when the patient is first admitted. This means that all examinations, drug preparations and transport arrangements should be in place in advance of the day of discharge; helping to ensure that the process goes smoothly.

Making sure the patient is in the right place

One of the biggest obstacles to patient recovery is placing them in the wrong area on admission. This can prevent expert treatment from being administered, making it likely that recovery will take longer. The challenge for hospitals is to get it right first time, so that patients start to get appropriate care as soon as they are admitted.

Encouraging patients to be mobile after an operation

As soon as patients are well enough to do so, after an operation, they need to be encouraged to get out of bed. They also need to be assisted in doing this. Not moving around as soon as possible can cause problems such as blood clots and ulcers.

These problems can lead to patients requiring a longer stay in hospital. Furniture such as hospital chairs can be vital in helping patients to become mobile. Chairs need to be supportive enough for patients to be able to get out of bed and sit in them. Tilting chairs can also be used, to help patients who find it difficult to stand from a seated position.

Taking a close look at operating hours

If a patient is well enough to leave hospital on a Saturday morning, they should be able to do so. Not only do they get to start their recovery at home sooner, but the bed they are using is also freed up earlier than if they need to wait until Monday.

The problem is that many consultants are not available over the weekend, and many areas of a hospital, such as the lab, may not be in full operation. By reconsidering its hours of operation, a hospital could make significant inroads into reducing the stays of its inpatients.

Prioritising lab results for patients who are being released

Often, lab work is required before a patient can leave hospital. Time spent waiting for this lab work can mean that a patient spends more time in hospital than they need to. This is why it makes sense for hospitals to prioritise lab work for patients who are being discharged, as much as possible.

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Liasing with other health and care professionals to ensure after care is in place

Good communication is vital in every aspect of life. But, it does not always happen within the medical profession. This is often due to the pressures involved. It’s important that all the post hospital needs of a patient are discussed and arranged, well before the patient leaves hospital.

If this does not happen there can be considerable delays when the day of discharge arrives, because all of the necessary arrangements are not in place. No-one wants to stay in hospital for any longer than necessary.

So, it’s important for the ongoing health and recovery of patients that they are discharged as soon as they are well enough. Hospitals also need to improve the discharge process as much as possible, as space is at a premium, and more new patients require a bed, and treatment, each day. All of the measures mentioned in this article are useful in helping to reduce hospital stays, for the benefit of both the patient and the hospital.

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