Understanding the patient experience of early unplanned hospital readmission following acute care discharge: A qualitative descriptive study

Julie Considine, Debra Berry, Stephanie K. Sprogis, Evan Newnham, Karen Fox, Peteris Darzins, Helen Rawson, Maryann Street

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Objectives To understand from a patient and carer perspective: (1) what features of the discharge process could be improved to avoid early unplanned hospital readmission (within 72 hours of acute care discharge) and (2) what elements of discharge planning could have enhanced the discharge experience. Design A qualitative descriptive design was used. Study data were collected using semi-structured interviews that were transcribed verbatim and analysed using inductive thematic analysis. Data related to participant characteristic were collected by medical record audit and summarised using descriptive statistics. Setting Three acute care hospitals from one health service in Australia. Participants Patients who had an early unplanned hospital readmission and/or their carers, if present during the interviews and willing to participate, with patient permission. Findings Thirty interviews were conducted (23 patients only; 6 patient and carer dyads; 1 carer only). Five themes were constructed: â € experiences of care', â € hearing and being heard', â € what's wrong with me', â € not just about me' and â € all about going home'. There was considerable variability in patients' and carers' experiences of hospital care, discharge processes and early unplanned hospital readmission. Features of the discharge process that could be improved to potentially avoid early unplanned hospital readmission were better communication, optimal clinical care including ensuring readiness for discharge and shared decision-making regarding discharge timing and goals on returning home. The discharge experience could have been enhanced by improved communication between patients (and carers) and the healthcare team, not rushing the discharge process and a more coordinated approach to patient transport home from hospital. Conclusions The study findings highlight the complexities of the discharge process and the importance of effective communication, shared decision-making and carer engagement in optimising hospital discharge and reducing early unplanned hospital readmissions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere034728
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2020


  • health services administration & management
  • organisation of health services
  • qualitative research

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