To select patients for early discharge planning, a randomized clinical trial evaluated a protocol that used risk factors identified upon hospital admission. The goal of the study was to determine if intervention with high-risk patients could reduce the need for hospital admission or skilled care. Of 13,255 patients screened, 835 study participants were identified as "at risk" for frequent health care resource use. Half of the high-risk patients were randomly assigned to the experimental group (n = 417) and received discharge planning from day 3 of their hospital stay, while the control group (n = 418) received discharge planning only if there was a written physician request. Those patients receiving early, systematic discharge planning experienced an increased likelihood of successful return to home after hospital admission and a decreased chance of unscheduled readmission for the 9-month study period. Length of the index hospital stay was not affected by early planning, however. The major clinical implication is the potential for discharge planners to decrease the need for, and use of, health care resources after hospital admission.