Hospitals are shortening the length of the average stay in order to accommodate more patients, but it may be doing more harm than good.
After being discharged, the last thing anybody wants is to find themselves back in a hospital bed a few days later. But as more and more hospitals are discharging patients early to free up space, the number of people having to readmit themselves within thirty days is on the rise.
Despite the original intention to provide quality care to more patients, this tactic may not be helping anyone, as it places undue financial and mental strain on staff, patients, and the hospitals themselves.
It’s commonly said that the discharge process is by far the most unsatisfactory part of the hospital experience. In the rush to get patients out the door, it’s easy for important things to get lost in the shuffle. With some help from The Atlantic, here are a few tips to help avoid the confusion and stress, and keep you from becoming a dreaded “frequent flyer.”
Leaving the Hospital — Stay Organized
When it’s time to leave the hospital, you’ll likely be inundated with a huge amount of paperwork and information. Some of this is necessary to hold onto, while some forms are just not essential. Identify the things you’ll need — like lists of medications, doctors’ names, laboratory results, and instructions, and keep it all in one folder or notebook.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also offer several checklists to help you keep everything straight.
Once You Leave, When Is it Time to Worry?
Depending on your medical history, a simple headache could be either no big deal or a serious indicator that demands immediate attention. Instead of agonizing over every little ache and pain, ask your doctor for a list of red flags that you should be on the lookout for.
Is that headache worth a call to your specialist or should you seek emergency care right away? With a specific list from a doctor that knows you and your situation, you’ll know the exact signs to take action.
Who Do You Call?
If you do need to contact someone, you need to know who to call — so ask for specific numbers before you’re discharged. If you leave the hospital on a Thursday or Friday, get the number for the doctor who will be on call that weekend.
Plus, you’ll want to ask for a copy of your lab work and x-rays to keep on hand, as you’ll need all of it readily accessible in the event that an emergency arises before your next appointment.
Keep Your Medications Straight
When you’re prescribed a drug at the hospital, that doctor may not be aware of other medications you’re currently taking. If it’s a generic drug, you might already be taking it under another name without realizing it.
It’s imperative that all of your doctors are aware of everything you’re taking, so make sure to always keep lists of medications as up-to-date and organized as possible. Additionally, use only one pharmacy for all of your prescriptions, so that there’s a clear record.
Schedule Your Follow-Up
Upon discharge, it’s common for hospitals to recommend a follow-up in 10 to 12 days. However, when you call to make the appointment, they often say they don’t have an opening for another month. A better idea: have your nurse or case manager call and make the appointment for you. Their advocacy could get you closer to the top of your doctor’s waiting list.
While it’s your healthcare provider’s job to give you the information you need to stay healthy, it’s up to you to keep that information organized and accessible. While that may seem like a difficult task, it’s crucial when it comes to getting the care you need without getting lost in the system.
The costs of follow-up appointment can pile up quickly, especially when you don’t have health insurance or your coverage is limited. SingleCare members can save up to 50% on a wide variety of healthcare and prescription services, making it easier to get the care they need, when they need it. SingleCare only requires members to pay for services they use, meaning no monthly premiums or high deductibles.
So check out what SingleCare can do for you, because when you’re recovering from an illness or injury, the last thing you want to worry about is your bank account.
(Main image credit: PresidenciaRD/flickr)