Booster Shots

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Some hospital patients need more patience

August 24, 2009 | 10:06 am

Hospital Next to "will I live?" perhaps the most-asked question in hospitals is "when can I go home?" No one likes being hospitalized, but it's usually wise to check out when the doctor says it's safe to go home.

Federal officials, however, have identified a disturbing trend in the last decade of people leaving the hospital against medical advice. The rate of discharge-on-demand increased a whopping 39% between 1997 to 2007, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. In 2007, 368,000 patients checked out of a U.S. hospital against medical advice.

The reasons why people leave early include concerns about finances, stress, family emergencies or dissatisfaction with treatment. These patients, however, are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital than patients who abide by discharge advice.

People who bolted were more likely to have one of these conditions, according to the analysis:
- chest pain with no determined cause
- alcohol-related disorders
- substance-abuse related disorders
- depression or other mood disorders
- diabetes with complications

It's somewhat understandable that people with psychiatric and substance-abuse disorders would be among those people most likely to leave against medical orders. Frequently, one aspect of these illnesses is a failure to recognize the need for help. But it's more perplexing that people with chest pain or diabetes would refuse care. The survey also found that men were 1.5 times more likely than women to leave early.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Spencer Weiner  /  Los Angeles Times