Purpose: Several randomized trials have found that discharge planning improves outcomes for hospitalized patients. We do not know if adding a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) to physician teams in hospitals that already have discharge planning services makes a difference.
Methods: In 2 teaching hospitals, patients were randomly assigned to regular hospital care or care with a clinical nurse specialist. The clinical nurse specialist facilitated hospital care by retrieving preadmission information, arranging in-hospital consultations and investigations, organizing postdischarge follow-up visits, and checking up on patients postdischarge with a telephone call. In-hospital outcomes included mortality and length of stay. Postdischarge outcomes included time to readmission or death, patient satisfaction, and the risk of adverse event. Adverse events were poor outcomes due to medical care rather than the natural history of disease.
Results: A total of 620 sequential patients were randomized (CNS n = 307, control n = 313), of which 361 were followed after discharge from hospital (CNS n = 175, control n = 186). The groups were similar for the probability of in-hospital death (CNS 9.3% vs control 9.7%) or being discharged to the community (58.0% vs 60.0%). The groups did not differ for postdischarge outcomes including readmission or death (21.6% vs 15.6%; P = 0.16) or risk of adverse event (23.6% vs 22.8%). Mean [SD] patient ratings of overall quality of care on a scale of 10 was higher in the clinical nurse specialist group (8.2 [2.2] vs 7.6 [2.4]; P = 0.052).
Conclusion: The addition of a clinical nurse specialist to a medical team improved patient satisfaction but did not impact hospital efficiency or patient safety.