Monday, February 6, 2017

How the patient ends up on the wrong end of the stick

It would never have gone down this way ten years ago when length of stay was all the buzz.  The Cat Scan would have been done in the emergency department, and the patient would either have been discharged or admitted for a a quick observation stay.  Bing, bang, boom. One, two three.

Instead, the CT was pushed until morning.  A resident saw the patient at midnight and then not a single practitioner note in the EMR for nearly eighteen hours.  The hospitalist eventually deferred on the scan and called for a consult, which was scheduled for the next day because of the late hour.  

After a busy day of surgery, the specialist showed up at 8pm and OK'ed the patient for discharge without any further studies.  But it was almost midnight, better to wait till the next day.  The social worker, in meetings all morning, didn't get the paperwork out to the nursing home till mid afternoon.  The nursing home accepted the patient, but only if delayed once more night due to poor staffing.

In all, the patient endured four days in the hospital without a significant diagnostic nor therapeutic intervention. He did, however, sustain a third degree decuibitious ulcer which would take weeks of wound care to heal.

I'm not sure when exactly the length of stay vs hospital readmission switch flipped.  I have a sneaking suspicion that with all this talk of readmission rates, the focus and priority of the hospitals and their hospitalist programs have changed.  Once again we have traded one slave master for another with untold and often unstudied consequences.  Don't be too hasty to discharge, we are told, you wouldn't want the patient to bounce back.  

This dance we dance with Medicare is complicated,  The incentive game sounds straight forward, but often is not.  While the hospital or doctor may be the recipient of all the carrots, the patient often finds themselves on the wrong end of the stick.

These are grand experiments we are forcing on our patients.  Unproven and untested, we must be aware that in the name of quality, we may be undoing much good.

1 comment:

serratiasue said...

Jordan, I enjoy your blog. I happened upon it as a link from a link from a link, somehow starting with Kevin MD's site, and have been visiting intermittently ever since :) Something about this entry pressed my wtf-button, though. I mean, how does a 4 day hospital stay give a patient a decub they wouldn't otherwise have? Unless they were (A) totally up ad lib before hospitalization and (B) strictly bedfast for those 4 days... or (C) bedfast at baseline but the lucky recipient of *amazing* preventative skin care in their previous location while (D) totally ignored by inpatient RNs and left supine for 96 consecutive hours, I'm puzzled.

That said, the situation you describe still sucks and represents an enormous waste of health care resources.