Leaving the hospital can be a dangerous time for patients
Why? Changes in care settings, care providers and medications experienced after discharge can result in errors that lead to health care complications. Many people end up going back to the hospital because of these complications, or because they were not prepared to manage their own care.
Don't make these assumptions
“My primary care doctor knows that I was in the hospital”
It is comforting to think that your primary doctor is communicating with your care team while you are in the hospital. The reality is that your doctor may not know that you were hospitalized.
“My doctor knows what new medications I was prescribed in the hospital”
In many cases, the computers in your doctor’s office are not connected to the computers in the hospital.
What can I do to make the transition go smoothly?
As a patient or family caregiver, there are several steps you can take to help you be a more informed and effective member of the care team during the transition back home after hospitalization. By knowing what to expect, you may be able to avoid health care complications and even re-hospitalization.
1)Medication Management: During hospitalization, you or your loved one may have been prescribed new medications. It is important that you talk to your doctor or pharmacist about these changes. They will need to know what medications you were taking prior to your hospitalization, and see what new medications were prescribed during discharge. It is important that you tell them exactly what you are taking and how. If there are medicines that you have been prescribed but are not taking, you should let your doctor know that too.
Tips for Effective Medication Management:
Useful tips for managing medication
2) Red Flags: It is also important that you understand the health conditions that you or your loved one has and how to recognize “red flags” or warning signs that may indicate a condition is worsening. You may want to use a Personal Health Record to list health conditions, red flags, and what action steps you will take when you identify a problem (see #4 below).
Tips for Recognizing and Responding to Red Flags
3) Follow-up with Primary Care doctor: You should see your doctor within one week after being discharged from the hospital.
Tips for Follow-up Care after Discharge:
4) Bring all of your medications to the appointment— Including vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter medications.
5 Use a Personal Health Record Click to download
Many patients and family caregivers have found this booklet helpful in organizing important health information including medications, health conditions, and questions for your doctor. Keep this tool updated and take it with you to every medical appointment. To print your own Personal Health Record, select double-sided printing, then fold the booklet in the middle.
More tips and tools
Next Step in Care Tools for Family Caregivers (® United Hospital Fund)
A campaign of the United Hospital Fund, NextStepInCare has a wealth of information and resources available on topics such as urgent care centers, HIPAA, medication management, discharge planning and home care http://www.nextstepincare.org/Caregiver_Home/
New York Times author Judith Graham wrote "More on Preventing Hospital Readimissions" in her online blog The New Old Age, Caring and Coping.
Author Barb Warner has a new book out called "Keep Your Fork Dessert is on The Way: Savoring the Second Half of Life". To order Barb's book or learn about her "Powerful Tools for the Second Half of Life" click here.
The Care Transitions Intervention® and all of its materials are the property of the Care Transitions Program®. The Care Transitions Program® is solely authorized to provide training on the Care Transitions Intervention®. If another entity offers to train your organization, please contact us.
© Eric A. Coleman, MD, MPH