‘Should I Stay, or Should I Go’? More Older Patients Discharge Themselves Against Doctors’ Orders

If someone wants to leave the hospital against the advice of attending physicians, he or she can do so, but must sign an AMA-approved waiver acknowledging that the discharge ignores medical advice. Usually, younger people are prone to make this call.

A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society says that more older adults (or their caregivers) are taking this course. Researchers found that since 2013, 50,650 hospitalizations of patients 65 or older ended with the signing of the AMA release form.

Discharge against medical advice (DAMA) “is one of the strongest predictors of hospital readmission and has been shown to have an important age-related component,” the study states. “DAMA is also associated with higher morbidity, mortality and more than 50% increased costs when taking into account the risk of readmission.”

About 40% of adults hospitalized in the United States each year are 65 or older, and demographics suggest that number will only get larger. The patients most likely to discharge themselves suffer from mental health problems.

Source: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society