Capturing the concealed: Interprofessional practice and older patients' participation in decision-making about discharge after acute hospitalization

J Interprof Care. 2007 Feb;21(1):55-67. doi: 10.1080/13561820601035020.


The aim of this paper is to investigate ways in which the dynamics of interprofessional work shaped older patients' "participation" in decision-making about discharge from acute hospital care in a medical directorate of a District General Hospital in Scotland. Twenty-two purposively selected older patients and their key professional hospital carers in three different ward environments participated in the study. An ethnographic approach was adopted, involving semi-structured interviews with patients and staff combined with rigorous observation of the practical context for staff and patient interactions during the discharge planning process over a 5-month period. Patients' and staff's understanding of "decision-making" and their priorities for discharge were different, but patients' perspectives fragmented and became invisible. Care routines, which centred around assessments and the decisions that flowed from these tended to exclude both staff and patients from active decision-making. Research and practice on patient involvement in discharge decision-making needs to focus on the organizational context, which shapes patients', unpaid carers' and staff's interactions and the dynamics by which some views are privileged and others excluded. Procedurally driven care routines and their impact on patients', carers' and staff's opportunity to actively engage in decision-making should be re-considered from an empowerment perspective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Decision Making, Organizational*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Male
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Patient Participation*
  • Power, Psychological
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Scotland
  • State Medicine