ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: A Discharge Solution—or Problem?


In a bit of counterintuition, an empty discharge lounge might be the most successful kind.

Christine Collins, executive director of patient access services at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, says that the lounge should be a service for discharged patients who have completed medical treatment, but who for some reason remain unable to leave the institution. Such cases can include waiting on a prescription from the pharmacy, or simply waiting on a relative or friend to arrive with transportation.

Whether you have a discharge lounge or not, you need to improve your systems so that the patients leave when they leave.

—Christine Collins, executive director, patient access services, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston

She does not view Brigham’s discharge lounge, a room with lounge chairs and light meals that is staffed by a registered nurse, as the answer to the throughput conundrum hospitals across the country face each and every day. So when the lounge is empty, it means patients have been discharged without any hang-ups.

“It’s not a patient-care area,” Collins says. “They’re people that should be home.”

Some view discharge lounges as a potential aid in smoothing out the discharge process. In theory, patients ready to be medically discharged but unable to leave the hospital have a place to go. But keeping the patients in the building, and under the eye of a nurse, could create liability issues, says Ken Simone, DO, SFHM, president of Hospitalist and Practice Solutions in Veazie, Maine, and a member of Team Hospitalist. Dr. Simone also wonders how the lounge concept impacts patient satisfaction, as some could view it negatively if they’re told they have to sit in what could be construed as a back-end waiting room.

“People need to assess what they’re doing it for and is it really accomplishing what they want it to accomplish,” Collins says.

Discharge lounges “can’t be another nursing unit because a patient is supposed to be discharged. ... Whether you have a discharge lounge or not, you need to improve your systems so that the patients leave when they leave.”

Richard Quinn is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.

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