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Helping your patient at home

In a busy hospital environment, the procedures involved around discharging a patient are a critical challenge. On any given day, there are likely to be multiple patient discharges. A streamlined approach needs to be taken to get through the work. Presuming the goal is to help your patient at home, ensuring patient understanding is an essential step in avoiding readmissions. From an administration point of view, a whole lot of things are handled behind the scenes to prepare for patient discharge. Such as identifying a patient care plan, medications, physiotherapy, diet, scheduling patient after care, and appointments with various specialists. Not to mention the ever increasing demand on bed availability, and staff shortage and the inevitable investigations when things go wrong.

Even with meticulous healthcare planning there is a risk that your patient simply did not have the cognition level to understand and execute the plan. Even worse, the explanation may not have been in terms the patient understands and can execute. The result is catastrophic in terms of the potential for post-discharge readmission and complications. The risks are currently too high. Furthermore, if there is a mix up by the discharge team, when scheduling external appointments for outpatients. The result could be missed appointments, a waste of resources and money adding to the endemic flow on impact.

Everything has to be planned impeccably and the discharge team has to be patient to ensure that communication is understood by the patient and their family of carer if also present.

It is well documented that when a healthcare organization has a well-scheduled discharge procedure, there is a marked increase in patient recovery and reduction in related readmissions. The healthcare provider also reduces the risk of double billing delivering a significant return on investment for time spent in the discharge process. The overall productivity of hospitals and doctors is thereby enhanced.

What is needed is a consistent method to record the recovery steps for the patient. Add to that the need to set appointment dates, provide contact details and address inconsistencies in advice across the healthcare team. The discharge process has to be collaborative, not just with the hospital healthcare team, but extending to the patient’s extended health advisors. The discharge checklist must take a holistic approach, considering the interactions of diet, exercise, formal and inform treatment processes, and the evolution of these processes on the path to full recovery.

If there is a long-term treatment plan, that will need close attention to detail. Make sure the plan is unambiguous and notated in a way that the patient understands. Also consider long-term health checks that are appropriate to the patient, taking into consideration the health conditions under treatment. Patient wellbeing during the post-discharge period has to be the highest priority, but after that the patient’s long term self-care program can also have huge impact in reducing socio-economic flow on which also impacts healthcare economics.

Also consider the cognizance of the patient, particularly if pain killers are involved and where possible involve the patient’s family and caretaker in the process. The collaboration between all of the participants in the patient’s health care is often the critical success factor in patient recovery.

Patient records also need to be coordinated as the patient has a personal accountability to track their own filing. If records were collated for the patient, that would greatly reduce the burden on the healthcare system, allowing the patient to better manage their relationship with healthcare advisors. If is better to help the patient in their self-sufficiency and not create unnecessary interdependency on health administrators and healthcare providers.

Communications amongst the patient’s healthcare team is also paramount and that means providing sufficient instructions to the patient, disseminating reports, setting follow-up reminders, entering updates to results and tracking other important records.

The bottom line, is that more effective communications during patient discharge, home care and follow-up:

Results in a lower cost burden on the entire healthcare system!


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