Hospital patients, unready to go home, are being pushed out the door anyway.
Pressure to meet financial obligations is pushing large hospitals to release patients too early, according to a pair of studies from University of Maryland Professor Bruce Golden. Patients that were discharged during hospitals' busiest periods were 50 percent more likely to come back to the hospital within three days, the study found.
One of the reasons for the rush to discharge patients: surgeons and hospitals operate on an incentive-driven model that pushes them to perform as many surgeries as possible, Golden said in a press release accompanying the findings.
"The hospital has to maintain revenue levels to meet its financial obligations. Surgeons are working to save lives and earn a livelihood. It's what they do," Golden said. "If the hospital says 'sorry there are no beds available,' there's a lot of tension and pressure from both sides to keep things moving."
That pressure appears effective. A 2010 survey from Forbes of America's most profitable hospitals found that more than 20 hospitals with over 200 beds make 25 cents on every dollar of patient revenue they take in. At the same time, Americans are paying the most for their health care of any industrialized nation, yet aren’t receiving the best care for their money, according to a study released earlier this month.
Seniors in Ontario are even being sent home from the hospital while they're still sick, the Ottowa Citizen reports. They're also being pushed out of the hospitals without adequate rehabilitation or therapy services.
The problem of sending patients home too early isn't limited to the U.S. though. The United Kingdom's National Health Service faced a scandal in 2010 after it was reported that the agency released 500,000 patients every year that were later readmitted because they were sent home too soon, according to Express.