How to Avoid a Return Trip to the Hospital
A hospital stay can be overwhelming and most of us can’t wait to get home. However, to reduce the chance of returning to the hospital after you’re discharged, it’s important to become an active partner with your health care team now, before you leave. Working together as a team, we want you to leave the hospital knowing what to expect – and what to do – when you return home.
Start planning for your discharge as soon as you’re admitted.
- Ask your care team what your life will be like when you go home. Do you need to make special arrangements before you are discharged? If so, ask your care team for help.
- Will you need someone to stay with you for a period of time?
- Will you need medical equipment and supplies (for example, wheelchairs/canes, oxygen, raised toilet seat, wound dressings)?
- Will you need physical or occupational therapy?
- Will you need help eating, bathing, going to the bathroom?
- Will you be able to drive? Will your activities be limited?
- Will you have any food restrictions?
- When will you be able to return to work?
- Do you know where and how you will get any needed prescriptions?
- Ask what signs and symptoms to watch for and when to call your healthcare provider.
- Ask your care team to keep your regular healthcare provider informed of test results and other information needed to care for you at home.
Listen carefully and speak up if you don’t understand.
- Have a clear understanding of your medical problems, why and what tests are being ordered, what the test results mean, what medications you are taking and why you are taking them. Ask if you don’t understand. If English is not your primary language, your care team can provide a translator.
- Make sure you understand your discharge instructions. Repeat the instructions back to your care team member to make sure you correctly understand them. Let your care team know if you are worried about being able to follow their instructions.
- If possible, have a family member or friend with you during your hospital stay and especially during discharge discussions. Having a second set of ears to hear your doctor’s explanations and discharge plans can be helpful. Make sure your family member/friend gets a copy of your discharge instructions and medication list. Review them together.
Review your medications.
- Medication problems can bring you back to the hospital. Talk to your healthcare provider, nurse, or pharmacist about the medications you will be taking at home.
- Make sure you know the generic and brand name of medications, reason for taking, how much to take, how to take (with or without food), how often to take, when to start taking and which ones you should continue or stop taking. Leave the hospital with a written medication list.
- Never stop taking a medication, or take less or more than the prescribed amount without calling your healthcare provider or pharmacist first.
- Tell your care team member or pharmacist about other medications, over-the-counter products, vitamins, supplements, and herbal products you take. Ask if you can continue to take them and let the care team know if you had any issues with prior medications.
- Keep a list of all the medications and other products you take.
Schedule your follow-up visit before you leave the hospital.
- Seeing a healthcare provider or specialist shortly after discharge reduces the risk of going back to the ER or hospital. Ask a health team member to help you schedule any needed follow-up appointments and tests. Make sure you have written information regarding the doctor’s name and phone number, address, specialty, reason for the appointment, and date and time of the appointment.
Before leaving the hospital, write down the name and phone number of the person to call if you have any additional questions or develop any problems or symptoms after leaving the hospital.
Keep your follow-up appointments.
- Even if you are feeling better, keep your follow up appointment. Bring along your discharge instructions, medication list, and any hospital test results in case your healthcare provider hasn’t yet received them.
- If follow-up tests are needed, make sure to ask how the test is done, how to prepare for the test, when to expect results and what to do next.