Length of stay is an important topic for health care providers, whether you have contact with patients or not. It’s the measuring stick for providers to ensure their patients are reaching milestones. And it’s important for patients, so they know what to expect throughout their hospital stay.
What does length of stay mean?
Just as it reads, length of stay is how long a patient remains in the hospital, from arrival until final discharge.
Why length of stay matters
First, it’s important to have some background.
There are many reasons as to why managing the length of stay is important, primarily being to provide the best care and outcomes for our patients. Statistics show the longer a patient is in the hospital, the higher the chances a safety-related event will happen. That’s why it’s important for patients to receive the right level of care, for the right amount of time, in the right setting.
Additionally, the longer any patient stays in the hospital, their risk for a number of complications goes up. That includes immobility. At a hospital, a patient is not up and moving around as much as they might be at home which can lead to respiratory issues. Patients can potentially develop pneumonia, bed sores and infections due to immobility. The risk of having a hospital-acquired complication goes up dramatically the longer someone stays in the hospital.
Older patients who may have dementia or other cognitive impairments which take effect at night, also known as “sundowning,” can become confused. They’re not familiar with their surroundings and may become agitated. This can be challenging for the both the patient and staff, so the faster we can return them to their home environment and familiar surroundings, the more likely they will do much better in their recovery.
How can you make a difference?
“Reducing length of stay is one element of ‘patient throughput,’ and is influenced by everyone who works in a care setting,” said Melissa Foreman-Lovell, chief nursing officer, Beaumont, Troy. “There are several easy ways to make length of stay a focus, such as increasing care coordination efforts, completing progression rounds, timely communication on test results, and working on barriers to discharge and placement concerns.”
However, the best way to improve length of stay is to ensure patients understand and are prepared with everything they need to be discharged safely and efficiently.
Every Beaumont employee plays a role. If you think about it, every move made within the hospital, even if it’s not directly discharging the patient, is usually bringing someone closer to discharge. For example, cleaning a room after a patient has transferred out of ICU helps another patient who needs an ICU bed. The sooner those moves can be made the sooner the patients in our care can move through their treatment protocols and closer to discharge.