To evaluate the relationship between rates of discharge directly to home (DDH) from the intensive care unit (ICU) and bed availability (ward and ICU). Also to identify patient characteristics that make them candidates for safe DDH and describe transfer delay impact on length of stay (LOS).
Retrospective cohort study of all adult patients who survived their stay in our medical–surgical–trauma ICU between April 2003 and March 2015.
Median age was 49 years (interquartile range [IQR]: 33.5-60.4), and the majority of the patients were males (54.8%). Median number of preexisting comorbidities was 5 (IQR: 2-7) diagnoses. Discharge directly to home increased from 28 (3.1% of all survivors) patients in 2003 to 120 (12.5%) patients in 2014. The mean annual rate of DDH was between 11% and 12% over the last 6 years. Approximately 62% (n = 397) of patients waited longer than 4 hours for a ward bed, with a median delay of 2.0 days (IQR: 0.5-4.7) before being DDH. There was an inverse correlation between ICU occupancy and DDH rates ( rP = −.55, P < .0001, 95% confidence interval [CI] = −0.36 to −0.69, R2 = .29). There was no correlation with ward occupancy and DDH rates ( rs = −.055, P = .64, 95% CI = −0.25 to 0.21).
The DDH rates have been increasing over time at our institution and were inversely correlated with ICU bed occupancy but were not associated with ward occupancy. The DDH patients are young, have few comorbidities on admission, and few discharge diagnoses, which are usually reversible single system problems with low disease burden. Transfers to the ward are delayed in a majority of cases, leading to increased ICU LOS and likely increased overall hospital LOS as well.