Barriers to effective discharge planning: a qualitative study investigating the perspectives of frontline healthcare professionals

BMC Health Serv Res. 2011 Sep 29;11(1):242. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-11-242.


ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Studies have shown that effective discharge planning is one of the key factors related to the quality of inpatient care and unnecessary hospital readmission. The perception and understanding of hospital discharge by health professionals is important in developing effective discharge planning. The aims of this present study were to explore the perceived quality of current hospital discharge from the perspective of health service providers and to identify barriers to effective discharge planning in Hong Kong. METHODS: Focus groups interviews were conducted with different healthcare professionals who were currently responsible for coordinating the discharge planning process in the public hospitals. The discussion covered three main areas: current practice on hospital discharge, barriers to effective hospital discharge, and suggested structures and process for an effective discharge planning system. RESULTS: Participants highlighted that there was no standardized hospital-wide discharge planning and policy-driven approach in public health sector in Hong Kong. Potential barriers included lack of standardized policy-driven discharge planning program, and lack of communication and coordination among different health service providers and patients in both acute and sub-acute care provisions which were identified as mainly systemic issues. Improving the quality of hospital discharge was suggested, including a multidisciplinary approach with clearly identified roles among healthcare professionals. Enhancement of health professionals' communication skills and knowledge of patient psychosocial needs were also suggested. CONCLUSIONS: A systematic approach to develop the structure and key processes of the discharge planning system is critical in ensuring the quality of care and maximizing organization effectiveness. In this study, important views on barriers experienced in hospital discharge were provided. Suggestions for building a comprehensive, system-wide, and policy-driven discharge planning process with clearly identified staff roles were raised. Communication and coordination across various healthcare parties and provisions were also suggested to be a key focus.