Hardly any of us like hospital stays. The sooner we can get out, the better. The excitement and relief can be palpable when the doctor gives their blessing that you have recovered enough to be released to go back home. That’s why the last thing you want is readmission soon after discharge.
But before you start packing your bags to go home, there are five essential things you should know to significantly reduce your chance of a return visit anytime soon:
- Have a hard copy of your discharge instructions
Before you walk out the hospital doors, there are specific questions you must ask, with the answers available in writing:
- What is my problem, or why was I in the hospital?
- What do I need to do once I am home?
- Why is it important for me to do this?
- How should you care for any surgical sites or drains and IVs, including how to bathe and identify signs of infection?
- What’s the plan for pain management, and what should you do if your pain worsens?
- What physical or emotional symptoms might you experience that are normal reactions in response to your treatment or illness?
In a cohort study from Yale-New Haven Hospital of 395 patients over age 65, fewer than 60 percent were able to describe their diagnosis after leaving the hospital. So carefully read your discharge instructions thoroughly, so you can answer each question.
- Review your medication list
One of the greatest sources of confusion is understanding what medications to take. When you checked into the hospital, the medications you used at home may have been changed or substituted with a generic or other equivalent medication. You may believe this is a new prescription the doctor ordered, but it’s really the same medicine you were taking before being hospitalized. Make your nurse or doctor carefully go over old and any new medications with you so that everyone is on the same page. It also helps to use only one pharmacy. That way, the same pharmacy records of all your past and current medications and can identify any problems. Finally, ensure that the hospital or pharmacy sends you a final list of medications to your primary doctor.
- Ask about red flags to be aware of
While in the hospital, anytime you spiked a fever or felt funny, you could use the call buzzer to have a nurse answer questions and evaluate your situation. But once you’re home, it can be hard to know what warrants a call to the doctor. Ask your doctor for specific red flags of your condition. What should you be aware of that should make you call your doctor or go to the hospital?
- Do you have a follow-up appointment with your doctor or a specialist?
At the time of discharge, things can get hectic. You’re ready to leave but there are so many papers you are signing and information thrown at you that you may not remember if you are to have any follow-up visits with any doctors. In addition, most people have medical conditions that are chronic and not completely resolved during a hospitalization. Before leaving your hospital room, ask about any follow-up medical appointments. Make sure your necessary appointments are scheduled before you leave the hospital. One of the main reasons for readmission to the hospital is that patients have not had appropriate follow-up after they leave the hospital.
- Check with your nurse to make sure your doctor receives your discharge summary
Once discharged, your inpatient doctor will write up a discharge summary of your hospital stay, new medications prescribed, and any laboratory or imaging studies that were done. This information is critical for all healthcare providers you see. However, sometimes this discharge summary does not always get to where it needs to go. Before leaving the hospital, ask the nurse to send the discharge summary to your primary care doctor and any specialists you may be seeing. Also, always ask for a hard copy of the discharge summary so you can bring it to any doctor’s appointments.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.