If you are preparing a patient to go home from the hospital, you want to ensure that he or she has all the information necessary to make the time at home safe and healing. Patients should feel that all their questions are answered, that they know who to contact in case of problems and that they or their family members will be able to take care of their needs adequately at home. By taking care of all of these steps, you will help decrease the number of patients who bounce back into the emergency room following discharge.

Send Home Medication Instructions

According to some studies, up to 40% of patients over the age of 65 have made errors with their medications once they have arrived home. By providing a complete and accurate medication list and going over it with the patient prior to discharge, you will help the patient understand exactly what medications they should be taking, how often they should take them and what they should do if they miss a dose. Ensure that patients have any scripts that they need or that orders are phoned into the patient’s preferred pharmacy prior to discharge.

Send Home a List of Concerning Symptoms

Patients should always know what symptoms they should be on the lookout for after discharge that could indicate a problem. One of the biggest ones, especially after surgery, is infection. Patients should know to call their providers if they experience fever, rash or oozing around the site. Other symptoms are dependent on the discharge diagnosis. However, all patients should be taught to return to the emergency room if they experience life-threatening symptoms, such as chest pain, excessive bleeding, severe vomiting or difficulty breathing. Discharge instructions should list phone numbers for doctors as well as after-hours numbers.

Include Activity Instructions

Patients should know what they are allowed to do once they arrive home. They should know whether they can take a shower or a bath, if they can walk on their own, how many pounds they are allowed to lift and whether they can resume normal exercise habits. Other specifics depend on the diagnoses but could include such things as raising arms over the head, wound care, special diets and elevating certain body parts.

Schedule Follow-up Appointments

If you have an online master degree in health administration, you may be intricately involved in filling out the printed discharge instruction list. While much of this list is basic instructions as well as specific orders from the doctor, a follow-up appointment is typically part of it. Be sure to schedule any needed appointments before the patient leaves your facility. This will help you to find a time that works for the patient, which will therefore increase patient compliance in attending the appointment.

While the patient and his or her family or caregivers seem to have the main roles in recovery at home, you as the health care organization have an equally important role in ensuring that the patient is ready to assume home recovery. By providing a printed discharge instruction list with complete instructions and numbers to call in case of questions, you will decrease the chance of repeat admissions. Additionally, if you are the discharge professional, you are the last advocate that the patient will have in the health care setting.