Bruce Golden, a professor at the University of Maryland, doctoral student David Anderson and colleagues tracked patient movement at a large, academic U.S. medical center for occupancy rates, day of the week, staffing levels and surgical volume.
Their study, published in the journal Health Care Management Science, found that patients discharged when the hospital was busiest were 50 percent more likely to return for treatment within three days.
Surgeons and hospitals are incentive-driven to perform as many surgical procedures as feasible, Golden said.
"Too often, the biggest problem is that hospitals just don't plan ahead, and this is what gets them in trouble," Golden said in a statement. "There are logistical alternatives to sending a patient home too soon."
Golden suggested surgeons use checklists before discharging the patient.
"They know better than we do what questions should be asked -- questions that would force the surgeon to think about whether they were discharging the patient for the right reason," Golden said.