Association Between Delayed Discharge From Acute Care and Rehabilitation Outcomes and Length of Stay: A Retrospective Cohort Study



      To examine the association between discharge delays from acute to rehabilitation care because of capacity strain in the rehabilitation units, patient length of stay (LOS), and functional outcomes in rehabilitation.


      Retrospective cohort study using an instrumental variable to remove potential biases because of unobserved patient characteristics.


      Two campuses of a hospital network providing inpatient acute and rehabilitation care.


      Patients admitted to and discharged from acute care categories of Medicine and Neurology/Musculoskeletal (Neuro/MSK) and subsequently admitted to and discharged from inpatient rehabilitation between 2013 and 2019 (N=10486).



      Main Outcome Measures

      Rehabilitation LOS, FIM scores at admission and discharge, and rehabilitation efficiency defined as FIM score improvement per day of rehabilitation.


      The final cohort contained 3690 records for Medicine and 1733 for Neuro/MSK categories. For Medicine, 1 additional day of delayed discharge was associated with an average 5.1% (95% confidence interval [CI], 3%-7.3%) increase in rehabilitation LOS and 0.08 (95% CI, 0.03-0.13) reduction in rehabilitation efficiency. For Neuro/MSK, 1 additional day of delayed discharge was associated with an average 11.6% (95% CI, 2.8%-20.4%) increase in rehabilitation LOS and 0.08 (95% CI, −0.07 to 0.23) reduction in rehabilitation efficiency.


      Delayed discharge from acute care to rehabilitation because of capacity strain in rehabilitation had a strong association with prolonged LOS in rehabilitation. An important policy implication of this “cascading” effect of delays is that reducing capacity strain in rehabilitation could be highly effective in reducing discharge delays from acute care and improving rehabilitation efficiency.


      List of abbreviations:

      ALC (alternative level of care), CI (confidence interval), HTSD (high-tolerance short-duration), IV (instrumental variable), LOS (length of stay), Neuro/MSK (Neurology/Musculoskeletal), OLS (ordinary least squares), RIW (resource intensity weight)
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