Objective: To review the records of children admitted to hospital for less than 24 hours to assess the appropriateness of the admission and subsequent discharge, and the suitability of these patients for admission to a short stay area rather than the hospital wards.
Design: Retrospective study consisting of a one in three sample of all children admitted to the hospital's general medical units over one year. All admissions were listed sequentially, and every third patient was included in the study.
Setting: Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne; a tertiary paediatric hospital with a major primary care role.
Participants: There were a total of 660 patients eligible for inclusion in the study; 220 were selected, and all records were reviewed.
Results: It was found that although 87.7% of admissions could be justified on medical grounds alone, the children quickly recovered with at least 65% being fit for discharge within 12 hours of admission. In spite of this the mean duration of admission was 17.0 hours. The majority of patients were suffering from easily diagnosed and treated disorders, with 78.9% falling into four diagnostic groups (asthma, ingestions, infections, and convulsions). Criteria for admission to a short stay observation area were satisfied in 65% of patients (at the time of the study no such area existed in the hospital). No patients were discharged inappropriately early.
Conclusions: A significant number of children require brief hospitalisation for relatively minor illness, but unnecessary delays caused by administrative aspects of hospital admission and relatively infrequent inpatient review by medical staff often lengthen the period of admission. Significant cost savings are possible with the use of a short stay facility, and a large number of patients are suitable for this form of care.