Increase your chances of a good recovery. Hospital discharge is a vulnerable time for a patient and one that’s rife with miscommunication. How can you increase your chances of a good recovery?
Different frames of reference coupled with broad, ambiguous recommendations mean that health messages are often misunderstood or interpreted in ways that surprise those making the recommendation. Last month, I weighed in on a discussion regarding hospital discharge instructions. Communicating discharge instructions effectively can have a significant impact on a patient’s recovery.
Discharge is known to be a vulnerable point in making a successful transition to a different location and level of care. With limited visitors currently allowed in hospitals due to Covid-19, patients are often alone when receiving oral discharge instructions. The absence of another set of ears leaves patients even more vulnerable to one of the unplanned re-hospitalizations that cost Medicare over $17 billion annually. While cost to the system is a factor, as patients we just want the best chance to recover as quickly and fully as possible.
The goals of patients, physicians, and hospitals often align at the time of discharge and yet according to one study, those goals are not met almost 20% of the time. There are many factors we as patients cannot control, but that does not mean we are helpless.
Here are 10 things you can do to increase your chances of a good recovery:
1)Have an advocate present when receiving discharge instructions. If visitation rules don’t allow you to bring someone with you in person, a video phone call can be a good option. A voice call will also work and is best done in real time while the instructions are being delivered to the patient.
If you do not have family or a close friend available, request a patient advocate. Your hospital will most likely have at least one on staff.
2)Ask questions. Do not worry about wasting someone’s time or sounding silly and do not assume your question is stupid. We all sometimes misspeak or mishear things. And, many smart, competent, well-intentioned professionals are not skilled communicators. Clarification is good. Repetition may be necessary. Knowing the why may make the what easier to follow.
3)Request resources. If you need help navigating financial options and insurance coverage, ask that resources to assist with those be included in written doctor’s orders.
4)Get wellness support. A change in health conditions may mean a need for additional time for physical activity, mindfulness activities, support groups, or counseling. Other support services like housecleaning, babysitting, school pick-ups, or food preparation may be needed to free up time for wellness support.
5)Get another opinion. If you want to get another opinion about long-term or follow-up treatment, make a temporary plan with your doctor that will be reflected in any written discharge orders.
6)Request time to research. If there is no emergency and you are not sure which treatment option to pursue, ask for a temporary plan then schedule a time for a follow-up visit. Allow yourself time to read about up on all of the options available.
Make sure to use reputable sources like the National Institutes of Health, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) for your research. Social media sites are not reliable sources of information.
7)Ask for a referral. If your research leads you to a physician/facility that specializes in treatment of your diagnosis that is not offered by your current doctor or hospital, request a referral to a new doctor and/or facility and sign a form allowing the release of your records to the new facility.
8)Make sure treatment plans match your values and goals. If you and your doctor are not on the same page regarding desired outcome and the best way to achieve it, you will not be successful. Insist that you play a part in developing a plan.
9)Follow the plan. Once you and your doctor agree on a treatment plan, follow it. Period. No plan will be successful if you don’t follow it. (If you develop reservations about the plan, continue treatment until your follow-up visit or call your doctor and work out a revised plan.)
10)Give feedback. When you receive a survey about your experience, provide specific answers. This may not speed your current recovery, but it will help you and other patients in the long run. Your experience is valuable.
Sometimes getting sick is unavoidable, but a few simple steps is all it takes to increase your chances of a good recovery.