The purpose of the present study was to identify the characteristics of patients from a geriatric ward who were referred for discharge planning support, a service provided by the first multidisciplinary department for discharge planning among the national university hospitals in Japan. From October 1997 to May 1999, 335 patients were discharged; 23 patients (6.9%) were referred. The referred patients were older and more frequently diagnosed with malignancy, dementia and respiratory infection. In addition, they had lower activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental ADL scores. Those characteristics, which may be related to the longer hospital stay and lower rate of returning home of the referred patients, can be assessed early in hospitalization to identify patients at risk for difficult discharge planning. It is important to identify patients who need earlier intervention by formalized discharge planning so that the current situation of overly long hospitalization in Japan will improve.
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