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4 Strategies to Optimize Hospital Bed Allocations

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, May 17, 2012

Golden was principal researcher, with co-author David Anderson, also of the UMD Robert H. Smith School of Business, of two studies on this topic. They found that patients discharged from a large, academic medical center when the hospital was at its busiest, were 50% more likely to return for treatment within three days, compared to when the hospital was at lower utilization. That indicates that the patients' recovery was incomplete when first released, according to the report.

The studies examined the impact of hospital utilization on patient readmission rates, and the discharge practices of surgeons at a large medical center. They were published in the two most recent issues of the Health Care Management Science.

The researchers used surgical discharge data from fiscal year 2007, covering more than 7,800 surgery patients who collectively spent 35,500 nights at the facility. They tracked occupancy rates, days of the week, staffing levels and surgical volume.

"Surgeons adjust their discharge practice to accommodate the surgical schedule and number of available recovery beds," the report states. "We find higher discharge rates on days when utilization is high. Our findings suggest that discharge decisions are made with bed-capacity constraints in mind."

While the data shows that economics plays a role in when patients are discharged, Golden didn't wanted to give the impression that money was a key driver. Or the driver.

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