What are the characteristics of short term inpatient care in Finnish primary care hospitals?
Background There is a lack of knowledge about the current processes and contents of short-term care in primary health care (PHC) hospitals. We analysed the current processes, contents, and characteristics of short-term care in PHC hospitals in the catchment area of Kuopio University Hospital (KUH).
Methods The discharge data of PHC hospital stays lasting 1–31 days were collected with an electronic survey instrument. The data were divided according to whether the stays originated directly in health care centres or after inpatient care in specialized hospitals. The characteristics of care in five hospital districts in the catchment area of KUH were analysed. Direct distributions were compared in the analysis.
Results Short-term care in PHC hospitals was used primarily for older patients with an acute need for inpatient care. Stays for care originated mostly in health care centres. Less than a quarter of all stays originated after inpatient care in a specialized hospital. Quantitatively, the most significant reasons for care were pneumonia and cardiac failure. There was regional variation in the use of PHC hospitals in the catchment area of KUH.
Conclusions PHC hospitals have a significant role, especially in the care of elderly patients in acute need of hospital care. Profound dismantling of the PHC hospital system would most likely multiply the number of elderly patients ending up in emergency wards and specialized care. Further development of pneumonia and cardiac failure treatment practices, in particular, could lessen the need for hospital care.