Everyone has heard that the key to a successful marriage is good communication. When important conversations are misunderstood, or ignored, resentment can build and the relationship can suffer. It makes sense that good communication would help all kinds of interpersonal relationships, including those with your medical providers. Good communication is so important in the medical world that it can impact how likely you are to be readmitted to the hospital. Miscommunication is a frequent cause of hospital readmissions.
A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that poor communication between medical providers, as well as between medical providers and patients, was responsible for 25% of hospital readmissions.
The communications issues found include:
- Doctors discharging patients too soon
- Failure to relay important information to the patient’s primary care physician and other out-patient healthcare professionals
- Patients’ inability to keep medical appointments after discharge
- Patients’ uncertainty of whom to contact with issues after discharge
What can you do to reduce your risk of readmission?
I suggest you consider the following steps before a discharge:
- Be sure the doctors in the hospital alert your primary care physician, and other relevant specialists, about the hospital admission, diagnoses, test results, medications prescribed, etc.
- Be sure you have an easy to understand, detailed description of next steps, including:
- What kinds of signs and symptoms to watch out for that would indicate a problem
- What to do if a problem develops
- Whom to call for follow up care
- When to schedule follow up appointments
- Be sure you have a complete list of medications needed, including over the counter medications. Make sure you understand when and how to take each medication
- Ask for a copy of the medical records from this visit, and keep it with you
- Find out what kinds of home care the patient will need and who should be responsible:
- For tasks the family will be responsible for: make sure the responsible party is trained and feels confident in the tasks ahead
- For tasks for which a professional will visit your home: get the contact information and a detailed list of the specific things you will be needing help with
- Consider any changes you will need to make to your home – will the patient need a hospital bed? a lift? wheelchair? medical equipment? Be sure to arrange all of this before discharge so everything is in place when the patient arrives home
Read the FierceHealthcare article by Zack Budryk.