UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 8 | Aug.
Shortened Hospital Stays not Always a Blessing
Researchers look for a better way
By Hilary Thomson
Returning home after a hospital stay should be a relief.
For many patients, however, it can be a frustrating struggle
to prepare special diets, juggle pain medications or even
shower with bandages on.
The transition from hospital to home is one that Joan Anderson,
a professor in the School of Nursing, is determined to improve.
Many people just dont anticipate what it will
be like when they get home, says Anderson. They
are told but often cant comprehend the full picture.
Anderson, and researchers from UBCs School of Nursing
and the School of Rehabilitation Sciences, Trinity Western
University and four Lower Mainland hospitals, have launched
a three-year study to evaluate the experience of 90 patients
from three different ethnocultural groups: first generation
Indo- and Chinese-Canadians and Anglo-Canadians born in Canada.
The team, which includes hospital policy-makers and clinicians,
has examined the impact of health-care reform -- such as shortened
hospital stays -- on hospital patients and staff. They are
also looking at the discharge planning process and difficulties
patients may face on their return home.
People in obvious need are easily assessed, but many
people fall through the cracks, says Anderson, who is
one of this years Distinguished Scholars in Residence
at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Study at UBC.
Key issues include patients ability to communicate
with health-care professionals. Many non-English speakers
dont realize hospitals provide interpreter services.
I was able to ask only the ones [questions] I knew
how to ask
. but there were some words that I didnt
know how to say, so I couldnt ask those questions,
said one Cantonese-speaking patient.
Information overload is another problem.
The information that the dietician gave me
overwhelming. I broke into tears
The stuff she told
me was right, there was nothing wrong with that. Its
just that you need to know where to start when you go home,
said one patient.
Patients have suggested a phone line service would help them
to consult easily with health professionals once they get
home. They need detailed instructions and advice that the
generic discharge pamphlet cannot provide.
People can also underestimate the length of time off work
and the resulting financial strain. Especially difficult for
self-employed workers, income loss is made worse by costs
of medications or equipment.
Anderson emphasizes that information from the study is helping
to improve practice already.
The staff in hospitals are committed people and they
are anxious to know what we are finding so that they can make
necessary changes. Were finding that some of the things
that are most distressing to people when they get home can
be addressed in a cost-effective way and might indeed prevent
them from ending up in the hospital again, she says.
When the study is completed, researchers will work with provincial
policy makers to implement the research findings.