Converting acute inpatient take to outpatient take with fast-track assessment in internal medicine wards - A before-after study

Cathrine Bell*, Ulrich Fredberg, Anders Damgaard Moeller Schlünsen, Peter Vedsted

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Background: With an extensive rise in the number of acute patients and increases in both admissions and readmissions, hospitals are at times overcrowded and under immense pressure and this may challenge patient safety. This study evaluated an innovative strategy converting acute internal medicine inpatient take to an outpatient take. Here, acute patients, following referral, underwent fast-track assessment to the needed level of medical care as outpatients, directly in internal medicine wards. Method: The two internal medicine wards at Diagnostic Centre, Silkeborg, Denmark, changed their take of acute patients 1st of March 2017. The intervention consisted of acute medical patients being received in medical examination chairs, going through accelerated evaluation as outpatients with assessment within one hour for either admission or another form of treatment. A before-and-after study design was used to evaluate changes in activity. All referred patients for 10 months following implementation of the intervention were compared with patients referred in corresponding months the previous year. Results: A total of 5339 contacts (3632 patients) who underwent acute medical assessment (2633 contacts before and 2706 after) were included. Median hospital length-of-stay decreased from 32.6 h to 22.3 h, and the proportion of referred acute patients admitted decreased with 36.3% points from 94.5 to 58.2%. The median length-of-admission time for the admitted patients increased as expected after the intervention. The risk of being admitted, being readmitted as well as having a hospital length-of-time longer than 24 h, 72 h or 7 days, respectively, were significantly lower during the after-period in comparison to the before-period. Adverse effects, unplanned re-contacts, total contacts to general practice and mortality did not change after the intervention. Conclusion: Assessing referred acute patients in medical examination chairs as outpatients directly in internal medicine wards and promoting an accelerated trajectory, reduced inpatient admissions and total length-of-stay considerably. This strategy seems effective in everyday acute medical patients and has the potential to ease the increasing pressure on the acute take for wards receiving acute medical patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number346
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2019


  • Acute care
  • Admission
  • Bed occupancy
  • Outpatient
  • Patient pathway


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