(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
If the health system wants to reduce the length of elderly patients’
hospitalization and save money, the simplest way to do so is by encouraging them
to walk around the wards.
This is the lesson of a new University of Haifa
study that found such simple exercise significantly cut the number of days these
patients stayed in the hospital.
“Given the over-occupancy of many
hospitals, this finding can be of great importance,” said Dr. Efrat Shadmi and
Dr. Anna Zisberg of the University of Haifa’s nursing department.
study was funded by the Israel Science Foundation and just published in the
Archives of Internal Medicine
journal. Shortening elderly patients’ hospital
stays by getting them walking in the internal medicine departments is equivalent
to increasing the number of beds, nurses and doctors – a major achievement given
the last four months of hospital strikes and sanctions.
surveyed 485 participants aged 70 and older, who were hospitalized for at least
two days in the internal wards of an Israeli hospital. Their physical condition
was determined by questionnaires; those who were confined to a bed or immobile
were excluded from the study.
Patients who were not restricted in
mobility were asked about their physical activity during the course of their
hospitalization. Based on their answers, they were divided into two study groups
– those who remained in bed or seated next to it, and those who walked around
their rooms and the ward.
The study found that all the patients who
walked around shortened their hospital stay by an average of 36 hours, compared
to those who did not exercise physical mobility.
The study found, in
addition, that those who walked around the ward on their first day of
hospitalization shortened their stay more than the others. This was found to be
relevant regardless of the patients’ health status.
The University of
Haifa researchers said older patients might mistakenly believe that when they
are hospitalized, they must stay in bed. But the opposite is true.
muscle’s reserve capacity can decompose quite quickly in older people.
they shift from a mode of mobility – even if it was minimal – to a state of
almost complete immobility, and even for just a few short days of
hospitalization, they could very quickly lose their muscle reserves, resulting
in more difficulties functioning and other complications. This study, along with
other new studies in the area, shows that walking really does pay off,” Shadmi
and Zisberg wrote in the journal.
They also noted that the study results
show that simple intervention to encourage walking in the geriatric internal
medicine wards ought to be considered seriously, especially in the current
period of the Israel Medical Association’s labor strife.
IMA has announced doctors’ sanctions for the next week if the current labor
dispute is not resolved. On Thursday, outpatient departments, day hospitals and
diagnostic institutes in general, geriatric and psychiatric hospitals will be
closed to receiving patients who are not already hospitalized.
physicians will be on the job to give consultation to patients in the
Only emergency and oncological surgery will be
All other hospital activities will be conducted normally on
On the same day, medical facilities in the community will also
be affected. Clalit Health Services’ clinics in the North, Central, Jerusalem
and Tel Aviv will be shut.
However, gastro, oncological day clinics,
dialysis and invitro fertilization will function in those districts.
Friday, all medical facilities will function according to their usual reduced
schedule, and on Saturday, the usual Shabbat schedule will be in
On Sunday, August 14, a general strike will force a reduced
Shabbat schedule on all general, geriatric and psychiatric hospitals around the
country. In addition, Clalit’s community clinics will be shut except for the
above-mentioned clinic services. On Monday, work will go on as usual.