6 Ways Patients Can Avoid Unexpected Trips Back to the Hospital

Published February 8, 2016

Unplanned hospital readmissions are an unfortunate reality for over 20 percent of Medicaid patients, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  This is largely due to miscommunication or misunderstanding of discharge directions, according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The revolving door between hospital and home costs Medicare $26 billion annually, with $17 billion associated with preventable readmissions. In order to avoid an unplanned return to the hospital, here are six things patients, caregivers and care teams should discuss before discharge:

Knowing the Medication Protocol

Patients should obtain an initial 30-day medication supply, wrapped in packaging that clearly explains timing, dosage, frequency, common side effects as well as serious events that should be discussed with a doctor immediately.

Establishing a Follow-Up Plan

Follow-up appointments should be scheduled and written on the patient’s calendar. Patients should also ensure that they have transportation in place to get to and from the healthcare provider’s office.

Best Practices for Communication

Patients should discuss with their physician the best way to communicate via online sources, such as apps, e-mail, text and video chat so that they can more easily help with questions and remote care. Patients should also make sure that they are familiar with accessing and using the technology.

Knowing Health Monitoring Tools

The real-time monitoring of a patient’s health status helps home health aides and other care providers act swiftly to provide early intervention, when needed. New technologies are becoming increasingly sophisticated in this area and are an important way of caring for patients outside institutional settings. Patients should find out what real-time monitoring tools are available and receive clear instructions on how to use them.

Understanding Physician Instructions

Patients are often heavily medicated, stressed, groggy and confused at the time of discharge. Thus, they should make sure they obtain instructions in writing before leaving the hospital for later review.

Keeping Caregivers Informed

Patients should encourage family members and others responsible for their care to connect with their physician and care team so they understand the medication regiment, other responsibilities and possible warning signs to look for.