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Avoiding Readmission and The Importance of Discharge Instructions

August 14, 2013
Bonnie Navin

When patients are discharged from a stay in the hospital the last thing on their mind is coming back for another stay. However, an article entitled “At Too Many Hospitals, a Revolving Door” from the New York Times paints a very different picture. The article outlines a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that nearly one in five older adults discharged from a hospital returns within thirty days. While not all readmissions can be avoided “a substantial proportion of readmissions could be prevented if hospitals did more to educate patients, ensure they’re able to care for themselves, and coordinate their care with other medical providers.” With hospitals beginning discharge planning upon admission to comply with the Joint Commission Standard, family members and patients are often given information about discharge days before actual discharge takes place. When discharge instructions are given to patients, health care providers sometimes assume that this information will be recalled days later when the patient is sent home, even when, at times, it is conveyed when patients are recovering from surgery and have difficulty concentrating.
The article list several suggestions for making sure that patients who are discharged do not end up being readmitted because of a failure in communicating adequate discharge instructions. It is important for patients and their caregivers to ask questions “[f]eel free to stop the person handling your discharge and say ‘wait, slow down, I don’t really understand how I’m going to get along day to day and how all this is going to work.”’
It is the responsibility of health care providers to adequately explain discharge instructions and communicate clearly and effectively with patients. When this obligation is taken seriously it can go a long way in helping to ensure that the patient that is being discharged on Friday will not be readmitted on Monday.