Increased allied health services to general and acute medical units decreases length of stay

Ms Ellen Mills1, Ms Vicki Hume1, Dr Kathy Stiller1

Central Adelaide Local Health Network, Adelaide, Australia


Aim: There is little research investigating the impact of increased allied health services for medical patients in an acute hospital setting. This study evaluated the effect of increased allied health services to general and acute medical services.

Method: A quasi-experimental, mixed methods study, with a historical comparison group was undertaken. In a funding initiative, allied health staffing levels were increased by 13.0 full time equivalents for a 6-month trial period. Outcome data compared between the two time periods included hospital length of stay (LOS), occupied bed-days, adverse events and allied health service data.

Results: Mean (SD) hospital LOS significantly decreased from 7.42 (0.67) to 6.45 (0.42) days (P < 0.0001) and occupied bed-days significantly fell from 5,383.8 (238.7) to 4,572.5 (259.1) bed-days per month (P < 0.0001) following the implementation of the increased allied health services. Adverse events were infrequent, with no significant change over time. Allied health services increased, with the number of referrals to allied health per month, occasions of allied health service and allied health time per month increasing by 18%, 45% and 40% respectively, along with a faster response time to referrals.

Significance of the findings to allied health: Increased allied health staffing to general and acute medical services were associated with a significant reduction in hospital LOS and occupied bed-days. These findings resulted in ongoing permanent funding beyond the trial period. These findings will be of considerable interest to other healthcare centres, particularly those where allied health staffing levels are below benchmark figures.