Inpatient subacute care in Australia: perceptions of admission and discharge barriers

Med J Aust. 2011 Nov 7;195(9):538-41. doi: 10.5694/mja10.11361.


Objective: To determine perceptions of barriers to admission to subacute care from acute hospital care, and barriers to subsequent discharge from subacute care.

Design, participants and setting: Web-based survey of key stakeholders using Likert scales and closed questions. Prompts were emailed repeatedly to potential participants in Australia between 15 May and 24 July 2009. Participants were physicians working in inpatient rehabilitation medicine and aged care units, as well as senior hospital managers with responsibility for patient flow.

Main outcome measures: Perceived admission and discharge barriers in subacute care.

Results: Half of the 101 respondents reported barriers to admission to subacute hospitals as moderate, severe or extreme, and 81% reported a similar grading of severity for barriers to discharge. There was no relationship between these perceptions and whether respondents worked only in the public hospital system (barriers to access: χ² = 0.02 [df = 1; P = 1.0]; and barriers to discharge: χ² = 0.0 [df = 1; P = 1.0]). The most commonly reported barriers to admission were: availability of beds (61% of respondents); physical, environmental and equipment inadequacies (62% of respondents); and allied health or nursing staff issues (55% of respondents). The most commonly reported barriers to discharge included: waiting for a more appropriate setting of care (76% of respondents) and funding for home modifications, equipment or carers (55% of respondents). There was no relationship between respondents' position and their reporting of various admission (χ² = 6.2; df = 8; P = 0.6) or discharge barriers (χ² = 13.8; df = 12; P = 0.3).

Conclusion: There is a strong perception among key stakeholders in subacute care that there are major barriers to patient admission and discharge. Redistributing proposed funding for inpatient subacute beds to measures for overcoming these barriers is likely to improve patient flow though the whole hospital system.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Australia
  • Efficiency, Organizational*
  • Female
  • Geriatrics
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Hospital Bed Capacity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Patient Admission*
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Rehabilitation
  • Subacute Care / organization & administration*
  • Time Factors
  • Waiting Lists