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discharge planning, hospital efficiency, physician behavior, quality improvement



  1. Kravet, Steven J. MD, MBA
  2. Levine, Rachel B. MD, MPH
  3. Rubin, Haya R. MD, PhD
  4. Wright, Scott M. MD


Patient discharges from the hospital often occur late in the day and are frequently clustered after 4 PM. When inpatients leave earlier in the day, quality is improved because new admissions awaiting beds are able to leave the emergency department sooner and emergency department waiting room backlog is reduced. Nursing staff, whose work patterns traditionally result in high activity of discharge and admission between 5 PM and 8 PM, benefit by spreading out their work across a longer part of the day. Discharging patients earlier in the day also has the potential to increase patient satisfaction. Despite multiple stakeholders in the discharge planning process, physicians play the most important role. Getting physician buy-in requires an ability to teach physicians about the concept of early-in-the-day discharges and their impact on the process. We defined a new physician-centered discharge planning process and introduced it to an internal medicine team with an identical control team as a comparison. Discharge time of day was analyzed for 1 month. Mean time of day of discharge was 13:39 for the intervention group versus 15:45 for the control group (P < .001). If reproduced successfully, this process could improve quality at an important transition point in patient care.