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Difficult Discharges: Sending Patients Out Without Getting Into Trouble

  • October 30, 2020
  • Brad Nokes , Intermountain Healthcare’s Legal Department , Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Kim C. Stanger , Holland & Hart, LLP , Boise, Idaho
  • Lisa Carlson , Holland & Hart, LLP , Boise, Idaho


Providers across the health care spectrum often struggle with difficult discharge decisions, including the disposition of patients who should be discharged but who either refuse to leave the facility or have no place to go for needed post-discharge care. Retaining such patients diverts limited resources from others who need them, places a heavy financial and emotional burden on providers, and exposes some providers to increased regulatory scrutiny. On the other hand, improper or impolitic discharges may expose the provider to, at best, bad publicity and, at worst, liability to the patient, family, or government regulators. In this Practice Resource, we hope to outline the primary legal issues and provide some practical suggestions for dealing with these cases

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