Background: The hospital discharge decision directly influences the length of stay in patients with community-acquired pneumonia, yet no information exists on how physicians make this decision.
Objectives: To identify the factors physicians considered the factors responsible for extending length of hospital stay in clinically stable patients, and the outpatient medical services that would allow earlier hospital discharge for patients with community-acquired pneumonia.
Methods: Physicians responsible for the hospital discharge decision of patients with community-acquired pneumonia were asked to identify the factors responsible for extending stay in patients hospitalized beyond stability, and the medical services that could have allowed earlier hospital discharge to occur.
Results: For the 418 eligible patients with community-acquired pneumonia identified during the study, 332 questionnaires (79%) were completed by 168 physicians. Physicians believed 71 patients (22%) were discharged from the hospital 1 day or more (median, 2.5 days) after reaching clinical stability. The most common factors rated as being "very important" in delaying discharge were diagnostic evaluation or treatment of comorbid illness (56%), completion of a "standard course" of antimicrobials (15%), and delays with arrangements for long-term care (14%). Among the 302 patients with available information on both length of hospital stay and stability at discharge, median length of stay was 7.0 days for the 29 low-risk patients hospitalized beyond reaching clinical stability and 5.0 days for the remaining 128 low-risk patients (P < .005); median length of stay was 12.5 days for the 42 medium- and high-risk patients hospitalized beyond reaching clinical stability and 8.0 days in the remaining 113 medium- and high-risk patients (P < .001). Frequently cited medical services that "probably" or "definitely" would have allowed earlier discharge to occur included availability of home intravenous antimicrobial infusion (26%) and home visits by nurses (20%).
Conclusions: Physicians believed that diagnostic evaluation or treatment of comorbid illness, completion of a standard course of antimicrobial therapy, and delays with arrangements for long-term care delayed hospital discharge in clinically stable patients. Addressing the efficiency of these aspects of inpatient medical care, as well as providing home treatment programs, could decrease the length of hospital stay in patients with community-acquired pneumonia.