Researchers from the University of Toronto are launching a multi-pronged research project that aims to help the province of Ontario identify solutions to tackle the problem of “hallway medicine” in hospitals.
The study by Kerry Kuluski, associate professor at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and Sara Guilcher, an assistant professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy with cross-appointments at IHPME and the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, is an in-depth evaluation of strategies to address an issue that has plagued the Ontario health-care system for decades.
Each year, thousands of Ontario patients designated “Alternate Level of Care” (ALC) endure prolonged stays in hospital after their treatment is complete because the next place of care that they need – such as a long-term care facility, assisted living or home care – isn’t available.
These discharge delays result in a dearth of vacant hospital beds for incoming patients, who are forced to wait in emergency rooms and receive treatment in hospital hallways – hence the term “hallway medicine.”
“It’s an issue that crosses all patient populations,” says Guilcher, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) embedded scientist with Health Quality Ontario. “It’s not specific to hip fracture or Alzheimer’s or diabetes. It’s a big systems issue that affects everyone.”
In a bid to address the problem, the Ontario government set up the Council on Improving Health Care and Ending Hallway Medicine last year. It counts Adalsteinn Brown, dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, among its members.
In January, the council published a report that found an estimated 1,000 incoming patients are treated in hospital hallways on any given day.
Statistics like these have prompted a renewed search for solutions, with the study by Kuluski and Guilcher leading the way.