We have all heard the story of an elderly person who was discharged from the hospital after spending several days being treated for some medical condition, only to return and be readmitted a week or so later. Oftentimes they return to the hospital believing they were not completely “cured” of their illness during the first hospital stay.
Many people have the feeling that they leave the hospital before they return to their “normal” state. The healing process continues once you go home and often is accomplished better in one’s own home and comfortable surroundings.
Unfortunately, the United States health care system has not done a good job of developing the systems to support this healing process. In general, care has been disjointed, with poor communication processes from the hospital to the physician’s office or other site of care after hospitalization. As a result, patients may run into barriers in obtaining medications, getting doctor appointments or obtaining other supplies needed for their final recovery or treatment.
We at Wilson Medical Center are working very hard to help breakdown these barriers. We are working with the physicians in the area to ensure they have access to the records from the hospital so they have a clear understanding of what care was given during that stay. We are having conversations with nursing homes as well as home health agencies so we both better understand issues around transmission of information. We have enlisted pharmacy help in order to ensure that medications can be available for patients when discharged.
As a patient, there are things you can do as well. Review your discharge plan, complete medication list and instructions and upcoming appointments. If you have any concerns or problems, contact your physician immediately. It is very important to have a primary care physician. If you do not, you can contact our Physician Referral Line at 1-800-424-DOCS (3627). Also, if home care has been arranged, be sure you leave the hospital with their contact information so you can call them if needed.
Working together, all of us can help improve this process of care following discharge from the hospital. Avoiding the need to return to the hospital is in everyone’s best interest and helps ensure high quality care.
Ronald Stahl, M.D. is the chief medical officer at Wilson Medical Center.