Tips for Improving Early Discharge Rates

Discharging patients before noon has many advantages: It creates open beds to accommodate the surge in admissions in the afternoon and helps minimize the bottleneck in system-wide patient flow, says Ragu P. Sanjeev, MD, unit-based medical director at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del.

“Doing so can reduce ER wait times, reduce the percentage of patients leaving the ED without being seen—a safety issue for those patients—and also help to place the right patient in the right bed in a timely manner,” he says. “It’s a not just a patient flow issue; it’s a patient safety issue, as well.”

At his hospital, hospitalists developed a “Discharge by Appointment” process to address the issue systematically and completed a pilot project to test it. Their “‘Discharge by Appointment’ Improves Patient Flow, by Increasing Number of Discharges Before Noon,” was an abstract presented at HM16.1

“Giving patients that have a high predictability of being discharged next day, an appointment, and set off a series of steps to be completed the day before discharge including, notifying the transport team/family members of the appointment, helped improve the number of discharges before noon significantly,” according to the abstract.

Their successful pilot project has led to lasting changes, Dr. Sanjeev says. For about 16 months, the number of discharges before noon has been steadily increasing, helping the acute medicine service line perform better than its “Discharge by Noon” goal by 44.4% this fiscal year.

“As hospitalists, we have a great potential to positively impact the hospital-wide issues like patient flow and patient safety,” Dr. Sanjeev says. “By actively participating in important hospital committees, you can understand better and get inspired by the ongoing improvement efforts. By partnering with your care team, including bedside nurses, case managers, and social workers, we can make a big difference in early discharges. This success can be expanded to discharges throughout the day with appointments, thereby keeping the flow faucet open at all times.”


  1. Sanjeev R, McMillen J, Fedyk A. ‘discharge by Appointment’ Improves Patient Flow, by Increasing Number of Discharges Before Noon [abstract]. J Hosp Med. http://www.shmabstracts.com/abstract/discharge-by-appointment-improves-patient-flow-by-increasing-number-of-discharges-before-noon/. Accessed April 27, 2016.

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