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Publication Date



2021 prov rn ca; 2021 prov rn poster; california; orange; sjh; heritage




Background: Delays in discharging patients can impact hospital and emergency department (ED) throughput. The complex discharge process makes it difficult to ensure that patients are set up for successful post-hospital care regimens. The focus of this project was to improve discharge times and flow throughout the hospital to align with national standards of providing the right care, in the right place, at the right time. To improve access to beds, The Joint Commission stipulates that hospitals have processes in place to support patient flow throughout the hospital and to use data to drive improvements in patient flow. Failure to regulate flow puts patients at risk for harm and less than optimal care. It also increases clinician burden which may accelerate burnout. A lack of optimal patient flow results in ED boarding and diversions, long waits, and boarding in post-anesthesia care units.

Purpose: The purpose of this project was to improve overall patient throughput within one large acute care hospital by improving discharge times. Baseline discharge times averaged over 4 hours with less than 15% of patients being discharged in less than 2 hours.

Methods: A multidisciplinary patient flow team was charged with improving discharge times and removing barriers to timely discharges. The team consisted of representation from executive leadership, nursing management, pharmacy, physician staff, case management, and frontline staff. Meeting weekly, the team rapidly instituted small tests of change to address the barriers to timely discharges. The Admission Discharge Team facilitated education. Discharge accountability teams on nightshift assisted with preparing patients for discharge. Case Manager/charge nurse rounds were instituted to identify patients ready for discharge and anticipated barriers. Electronic whiteboards were utilized for interdisciplinary communication. Discharge times were reported weekly in a public area on units.

Results: The program resulted in an increase in caregiver engagement in discharges and discharge times. Readmission rates decreased for heart failure patients to below national benchmark. Discharges completed in less than 2 hours improved to almost 30%. Average discharge times decreased from 4 hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes. Also, responses improved to the patient satisfaction question "When I left the hospital, I had a good understanding of the things I was responsible for in managing my heath:" by 25%. Conclusions: Discharge planning that is initiated on the day of admission and addressed ongoing in a uniform fashion by both nursing shifts and ancillary caregivers can alleviate delays on discharge day. An improvement in discharge times improved hospital flow. A focused approach on education throughout the patients stay improved their ability to manage their health at home and reduced readmits.

Implication for Practice: The discharge protocol and procedures will continue to be implemented and evaluated for improvement needs and barriers and expanded to include skilled nursing facility transfers. The discharge process has been implemented in several inpatient units. Discharge times/barriers will be re-evaluated quarterly and the focused patient flow team will make additional adjustments to make the discharge process more efficient.


Emergency Medicine



Conference / Event Name

2021 Providence RN Conference


Virtual Conference

Improving Discharge Times and Patient Flow

Included in

Nursing Commons