Patients heading home from the hospital after discharge can now wait for their rides in a comfortable environment outside their hospital rooms — and closer to their pickup location.

New discharge lounges at Christiana Hospital and Wilmington Hospital help patients and families to make a smoother transition from their hospital rooms to home.

“The patient lounge is a continuation of the patient experience,” said Michelle Wheeler, MS, BSN, RN, CNML, clinical operations director, nursing administration. “Research shows that people feel better being out of the stereotypical hospital unit, and the discharge lounge provides a comfortable setting for patients who no longer need to be in the hospital.”

In the new concept, patients who have been discharged are escorted to the lounge, where they can read, enjoy complimentary snacks and wait for their rides to arrive. There’s a charging station for phones. Volunteers staff the lounge, talking with patients, answering questions and transporting patients to their vehicles when ready.

“The families and caregivers don’t have to park their vehicle and walk up to the patient care unit when picking up a patient for discharge,” said Terry Foraker, MSN, RN, ONC, director of operations, Wilmington Hospital. “They now can just drive up to the hospital entrance to pick up their friend or family member.”

Foraker and Wheeler led a diverse group of stakeholders, including patient advisers and volunteers, to come up with a plan. Currently, Surgical, Acute Medicine, and Cardiovascular service lines are using the system. Heart & Vascular Interventional Services also has begun sending patients to the Christiana Hospital lounge.

“The discharge lounge is innovative, the result of staff coming together and finding a way we can help patients make that transition home,” said Margarita Rodriguez-Duffy, MSW, CAVS, director, Visitor and Volunteer Services.

Patients who will be using the lounge are informed of the process when they are admitted to the hospital.

“We found that the earlier patients are notified that the discharge lounge is available to wait for their transportation home, family and friends are timelier in arriving to the hospital to transport patients home.”

The lounge provides value to patients and the health system by helping to reduce length of stay. It also allows incoming patients to be settled in their rooms more quickly. Discharged patients and their loved ones benefit from a more convenient departure.

“It isn’t just a strategy to increase flow when the census is high,” Wheeler said. “It’s a new way of thinking about the patient’s transition of care.”

Volunteers are an essential part of the process, receiving notification from units when patients will be sent down to the lounge.

“Our volunteers are there to provide company and support to these patients so they can get home,” Rodriguez-Duffy said. “Volunteers can provide them with something to drink or offer a magazine, whatever they need to feel comfortable. We want it to make it a pleasant place.”

At Christiana Hospital, the discharge lounge is located on the first floor near the C/D elevators, close to the main entrance and the entrance to the Center for Heart & Vascular Health. At Wilmington Hospital, the lounge is located on the third floor in the perioperative suite. At both hospitals, the lounges operate 9 6 p.m.