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Speedy Hospital Discharges Counterproductive


Posted on Jan 12, 2012

US hospitals may want to pay attention to patient discharge statistics in foreign nations, because the record there is significantly more positive.

A recent study out of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) claims that American hospitals tend to discharge heart attack patients sooner than foreign hospitals do, but patients also tend to be readmitted much more often. Over 5,500 patients who had suffered from STEMI were surveyed. STEMI (ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction) is a severe heart attack, in which the coronary artery is fully blocked. US STEMI patients were usually discharged from hospitals before three days were up. In contrast, 16 other nations (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and 13 European countries), take at least six days to discharge their patients.

The results are clear, according to the study. Fewer than 10% of foreign patients needed to return within 30 days, but 14.5% of American patients did. Readmissions have health implications. Infections, for example, slow recovery from heart attacks. Readmission also tends to pair patients with new medical teams, contributing to possible "handoff miscommunications," which refer to the transfer of a patient to new medical professionals, during which time crucial information may be lost.

However, in the interest of keeping costs low and of retaining high quality ratings, it should not be a surprise to see nearby hospitals begin to take this new study strongly into advice.

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