How to Avoid the Round-Trip Visit to the Hospital

When patients get out of the hospital, it’s usually a sign that their health is getting better and they're ready to recover at home. Unfortunately, millions of patients each year end up back in the hospital. In fact, 1 in 5 Medicare patients go back within 1 month of being released. Even more people face unexpected medical problems within weeks of leaving the hospital. Many of the medical problems that send patients back to the hospital could have been avoided in the first place. What causes these problems to happen? Educating patients about their medicines before they leave the hospital is a 2010 patient safety goal from the Joint Commission, a national group that accredits hospitals. Medicare has also stopped paying hospitals for additional costs that result when certain preventable conditions cause patients to end up back in the hospital. Recently, the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) developed a new resource to get patients better prepared to leave the hospital. Taking Care of Myself: A Guide for When I Leave the Hospital is a guide that highlights what patients need to know when they leave the hospital. The guide is based on pioneering work done at Boston University Medical Center. Through a program called Project RED, doctors and nurses at the facility changed the way patients are discharged from the hospital. Funded by AHRQ, Project RED uses trained nurses to help patients understand their condition, make follow-up appointments, and confirm which medicines they should take. A pharmacist also contacts patients 2 to 4 days after they leave the hospital to answer any questions they may have about their medicines. The same simple, but important, steps that helped these patients can help you or your loved one. These steps, outlined in the new guide, include:
  • Making an appointment to see your doctor or a specialist who treats your condition.
  • Taking your medicines correctly.
  • Making sure you aren't allergic to any of your medicines.
  • Asking your doctor about your test results.
  • Getting the right kind of exercise.
  • Knowing who to call with questions or problems.
  • The easy-to-understand guide helps you keep track of this information and gives you space to write down any questions you want to ask during future appointments.