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Doctors push for early patient release: Is this malpractice?

A new trend appears to be emerging from large for-profit hospitals. Patients are being forced out the door, even if they are not ready to go home. Studies from the University of Maryland indicate that hospitals are facing increased pressure to meet certain financial obligations and they are choosing to release patients earlier as a way to save money.

The study also found that of the patients released during the hospital busy periods, 50 percent were more likely to return to the hospital within three days. Releasing patients too early can cause serious harm to the patient and may be considered doctor error or even doctor negligence. New York patients should be aware of this trend as they seek care, especially if the treatment involves hospital stays.

Surgeons and hospitals are pushed to make money and many operate on an incentive-based model. This type of model encourages doctors to perform as many surgeries as possible. Hospitals also don't want to tell potential patients that there are no beds available. Financial concerns may also lead to patients released without adequate rehabilitation or therapy services.

Tension has developed between the two sides. On one hand, hospitals and doctors want to provide the best care possible, but on the other hand, the hospital and doctors also have to make money to earn a livelihood.

But the decisions by doctors can potentially cause grave harm to patients. Releasing a patient earlier than is safe could be a basis for a medical malpractice claim.

Doctors must follow a certain standard of care when treating patients. If doctors deviate from the normal release schedules or do not meet the standard of care, they may be open to liability for any resulting damages.

Source: The Huffington Post, "For-Profit Hospitals Pushing Patients Out Too Early: Report," May 14, 2012

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