Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Increased allied health services to general and acute medical units decreases length of stay: comparison with a historical cohort*

Ellen Mills A B , Vicki Hume A and Kathy Stiller A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Central Adelaide Local Health Network, Royal Adelaide Hospital, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia. Email: Vicki.Hume@sa.gov.au; Kathy.Stiller@sa.gov.au

B Corresponding author. Email: Ellen.Mills@sa.gov.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16220
Submitted: 6 October 2016  Accepted: 17 February 2017   Published online: 30 March 2017

Abstract

Objective The present study evaluated the effect of an initiative to fund increased allied health (AH) services, enabling increased days and both volume and scope of AH services, for general medical in-patients in the Central Adelaide Local Health Network for a 6-month trial period.

Methods A quasi-experimental mixed-methods study was undertaken involving general medical in-patients at two acute tertiary-referral public hospitals with a prospective (December 2015–May 2016) and historical comparison (December 2014–May 2015) cohort. Outcome measures compared between the two cohorts included hospital length of stay (LOS), occupied bed-days, adverse events and AH service data.

Results After implementation of increased AH services, there were significant decreases in the median (interquartile range) of both hospital LOS (from 7.2 (7.0–8.0) to 6.5 (6.1-6.7) days; P = 0.006) and occupied bed-days (from 5295.0 (5200.0–5622.3) to 4662.5 (4335.8–4744.3) bed-days per month; P = 0.004). There was no significant change in weekend discharges or adverse events. AH services increased, with the median number of referrals seen by AH professionals per month, occasions of AH service and AH intervention time per month increasing by 17%, 45% and 43% respectively after implementation, along with a faster response time to referrals.

Conclusions Increased levels of AH staffing to general medical in-patients were associated with a significant reduction in hospital LOS and occupied bed-days.

What is known about the topic? AH services are an important component in the delivery of safe, effective and efficient health care to hospitalised patients. There is little evidence specifically investigating the effect of increased AH services for general medical patients in an acute hospital setting.

What does this paper add? This study provides new evidence demonstrating that increasing AH services to general medical in-patients within two acute tertiary-referral public hospitals decreased hospital LOS and occupied bed-days, without an increase in adverse events.

What are the implications for practitioners? A funding initiative to enable increased AH services to general medical in-patients significantly reduced hospital LOS and occupied bed-days. These findings will be of considerable interest to other healthcare centres, particularly those where AH levels are below benchmark figures.

Additional keywords: allied health personnel, health care facilities, hospital medicine, manpower, services.


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