Hospitalized patients with asthma who leave against medical advice: characteristics, reasons, and outcomes

Alan P Baptist, Indulekha Warrier, Rachna Arora, Joel Ager, R Michael Massanari
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2007, 119 (4): 924-9

BACKGROUND: A discharge against medical advice (AMA) after an asthma hospitalization is a frustrating problem for health care providers, yet little is known about this occurrence.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the baseline characteristics, reasons for leaving, and clinical outcomes of patients with asthma who leave AMA.

METHODS: A retrospective study from 1999 to 2004 of all asthma discharges from 3 large hospitals in Detroit compared those who left AMA with those who left with medical approval.

RESULTS: There were 180 patients who left AMA and 3457 patients who had a standard discharge. Patients with asthma who left AMA were more likely to be younger, male, have Medicaid or lack insurance, require intensive care unit admission, and have a lower socioeconomic status than patients with asthma discharged with approval (P < .05 for all comparisons). There was no difference in race, day of the week admitted, or month admitted. Among records that documented a reason for leaving AMA, the most common was dissatisfaction with care, although a variety of motives were found. Finally, patients who left AMA were more likely to have an asthma relapse within 30 days. This included both emergency department revisits (21.7% vs 5.4%; P < .001) and readmission to the hospital (8.5% vs 3.2%; P < .001).

CONCLUSION: Patients with asthma who leave AMA have demographic and hospital admission characteristics that differ from those who leave with approval. The reasons why patients with asthma leave AMA are varied. Within 30 days, patients with asthma who leave AMA have much higher readmission and emergency department return rates.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Patients with asthma who leave AMA are at increased risk of relapse.

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