Inappropriate admissions or inadequate discharges of frail elderly: Competing program theories and implementation challenges in an intermediate care intervention

Birgitte Nørgaard, Helene Skjøt-Arkil, Nina Nissen, Christian Backer Mogensen


Intermediate care interventions are increasingly being implemented in the health services to avoid hospitalizing elderly frail patients with complex medical issues, often referred to as inappropriate or unwarranted admissions. This paper presents a theory-based stakeholder evaluation of an intervention involving hospitals, community care and general practitioners (GPs) in a Danish region with the overall objective to reduce the number of (inappropriate) hospital admissions for the frail elderly of 65 years or older. In a controlled study design elderly acutely ill patients were randomized to care and treatment either by a district nursing team or in an emergency department (ED) – both interventions with a 48-hour time limit. The district nursing teams were given access to various telemedicine solutions. In the programme theory analysis the stakeholders’ normative theories, situation theories and causal theories were studied. Competing programme theories and barriers and facilitators were identified. Data were collected in interviews with stakeholders (managers, nurses, hospital physicians and GPs) and from the literature. The intervention included a regional hospital, four municipalities and 166 GPs servicing a mixed urban and rural region in Denmark.  Four district nursing teams, eight GPs, three hospital physicians and two project managers were interviewed between January and March 2015. The stakeholder’s programme theories were both concordant and competing; the GPs in particular were sceptical of the purported objective of reducing the number of inappropriate hospital admissions; they would rather see a reduction in the number of inappropriate hospital discharges. Our results indicate a compromised implementation process.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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