Pediatric Pathways

Enhancing the Discharge Process Step by Step

Beth Houlahan is working to reduce the discharge process to two hours.The patient discharge process has long been in need of improvement, with about half of UW Health inpatients and their families expressing dissatisfaction with their experience, according to Press Ganey survey results.

“It was never the same experience twice. Sometimes it felt rushed; other times it felt delayed,” says Irene Ekleberry, UW Health Patient and Family Advisor and a member of the Discharge Collaborative, an interdisciplinary group working to improve the process.

Following eight months of planning, the first standardized process for patient discharge at UW Health will soon be implemented across all general care units. Designed to improve the patient and family experience, the new process will include entering and tracking an anticipated discharge date, as well as a confirmed date and time.

Scheduling a discharge time has been shown to be successful at other health systems, including Mayo Clinic and Cadence Health, and has been piloted on one unit at UW Hospitals and Clinics. It offers key advantages, from enabling patients and family members to make timely transportation arrangements to allowing more time for patient education to reducing admission delays for incoming patients.

“Through a validated computer simulation model, we learned that improving communication about discharge plans can reduce the average length of discharge by at least two hours,” says Beth Houlahan, senior vice president of nursing and patient care services. “This small change is expected to result in our ability to care for nearly 470 more patients each year. “

"Addressing discharge delays also enables us to reduce bottlenecks in the Emergency Department and minimize the rush to discharge patients to accommodate those needing a bed,” says Chris Green, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer.

Staff training began in March 2014.