Leaving the hospital on time: hospital bed utilization and reasons for discharge delay in the Netherlands

Eva van den Ende, Bo Schouten, Lara Pladet, Hanneke Merten, Louise van Galen, Milka Marinova, Michiel Schinkel, Anneroos W. Boerman, Rishi Nannan Panday, Cees Rustemeijer, Muhammad Dulaimy, Derek Bell, Prabath Wb Nanayakkara

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Inappropriate bed occupancy due to delayed hospital discharge affects both physical and psychological well-being in patients and can disrupt patient flow. The Dutch healthcare system is facing ongoing pressure, especially during the current coronavirus disease pandemic, intensifying the need for optimal use of hospital beds. The aim of this study was to quantify inappropriate patient stays and describe the underlying reasons for the delays in discharge. The Day of Care Survey (DoCS) is a validated tool used to gain information about appropriate and inappropriate bed occupancy in hospitals. Between February 2019 and January 2021, the DoCS was performed five times in three different hospitals within the region of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. All inpatients were screened, using standardized criteria, for their need for in-hospital care at the time of survey and reasons for discharge delay. A total of 782 inpatients were surveyed. Of these patients, 94 (12%) were planned for definite discharge that day. Of all other patients, 145 (21%, ranging from 14% to 35%) were without the need for acute in-hospital care. In 74% (107/145) of patients, the reason for discharge delay was due to issues outside the hospital; most frequently due to a shortage of available places in care homes (26%, 37/145). The most frequent reason for discharge delay inside the hospital was patients awaiting a decision or review by the treating physician (14%, 20/145). Patients who did not meet the criteria for hospital stay were, in general, older [median 75, interquartile range (IQR) 65-84 years, and 67, IQR 55-75 years, respectively, P <. 001] and had spent more days in hospital (7, IQR 5-14 days, and 3, IQR 1-8 days respectively, P <. 001). Approximately one in five admitted patients occupying hospital beds did not meet the criteria for acute in-hospital stay or care at the time of the survey. Most delays were related to issues outside the immediate control of the hospital. Improvement programmes working with stakeholders focusing on the transfer from hospital to outside areas of care need to be further developed and may offer potential for the greatest gain. The DoCS can be a tool to periodically monitor changes and improvements in patient flow.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermzad022
JournalInternational Journal for Quality in Health Care
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023


  • Day of Care Survey
  • The Netherlands
  • acute hospital
  • delayed discharges
  • delays in care
  • inappropriate stay
  • inpatient flow

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