Practice Management

Discharge before noon: An appropriate metric for efficiency?


I first heard the term “discharge before noon” (DCBN) as a third-year medical student starting my internal medicine rotation. The basic idea made sense: Get patients out of the hospital early so rooms can be cleaned more quickly and new patients wouldn’t have to wait so long in the ED.

Dr. Jennifer K. Chen, a pediatric hospital medicine fellow at Rady Children's Hospital, UC San Diego

Dr. Jennifer K. Chen

It quickly became apparent, however, that a lot of moving parts had to align perfectly for DCBN. Even if we prioritized rounding on dischargeable patients (starting 8-9 a.m. depending on the service/day), they still needed prescriptions filled, normal clothes to wear, and a way to get home, which wasn’t easy to coordinate while we were still trying to see all the other patients.

Fast forward through 5 years of residency/fellowship experience and DCBN seems even more unrealistic in hospitalized pediatric patients. As a simple example, discharge criteria for dehydration (one of the most common reasons for pediatric hospitalization) include demonstrating the ability to drink enough liquids to stay hydrated. Who’s going to force children to stay up all night sipping fluids (plus changing all those diapers or taking them to the bathroom)? If the child stays on intravenous fluids overnight, we have to monitor at least through breakfast, likely lunch, thus making DCBN nearly impossible.

In a January 2019 article in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, Hailey James, MHA, (@Haileyjms on Twitter) and her colleagues demonstrated an association between DCBN and decreased length of stay (LOS) for medical but not surgical pediatric discharges.1 This made them question if DCBN is an appropriate metric for discharge efficiency, as well as workflow differences between services. Many hospitals, however, still try to push DCBN as a goal (see Destino et al in the same January 2019 issue of JHM2), which could potentially lead to people trying to game the system.

How does your institution try to make discharge processes more efficient? Is it actually possible to do everything more quickly without sacrificing quality or trainee education? Whether your patients are kids, adults, or both, there are likely many issues in common where we could all learn from each other.

We discussed this topic in #JHMChat on April 15 on Twitter. New to Twitter or not familiar with #JHMChat? Since October 2015, JHM has reviewed and discussed dozens of articles spanning a wide variety of topics related to caring for hospitalized patients. All are welcome to join, including medical students, residents, nurses, practicing hospitalists, and more. It’s a great opportunity to virtually meet and learn from others while earning free CME.

To participate in future chats, type #JHMChat in the search box on the top right corner of your Twitter homepage, click on the “Latest” tab at the top left to see the most recent tweets, and join the conversation (don’t forget the hashtag)!

Dr. Chen is a pediatric hospital medicine fellow at Rady Children’s Hospital, University of California, San Diego. She is one of the cofounders/moderators of #PHMFellowJC, serves as a fellow district representative for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and is an active #tweetiatrician at @DrJenChen4kids. This article appeared originally in SHM's official blog The Hospital Leader. Read more recent posts here.


1. James HJ et al. The Association of Discharge Before Noon and Length of Stay in Hospitalized Pediatric Patients. J Hosp Med. 2019;14(1):28-32. doi: 10.12788/jhm.3111.

2. Destino L et al. Improving Patient Flow: Analysis of an Initiative to Improve Early Discharge. J Hosp Med. 2019;14(1):22-7. doi: 10.12788/jhm.3133.

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