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Discharge Instructions: A Vital Part of Your Recovery

HealthReach, Spring/Summer 2012 | Page 3

Perhaps the most important paperwork that you receive as a patient at Virginia Hospital Center is your discharge instructions. For your health and safety, it’s extremely important to carefully review and follow the directions you are given before you leave the Hospital.
“Planning for discharge begins on the day of admission to the Hospital,” says Jeff DiLisi, MD, Vice President & Chief Medical Officer. “From the time of your admission, everyone on your care team is planning for what you will need when you leave.”
“When a patient is in the Hospital for treatment, 40 people come into their room on average during a three-day stay,” says Geri Bishop, Associate Vice President of Quality Resource Management.
“They’re getting lots of information, and they remember only about 10 percent of it. At discharge, it’s important to have a family member or friend there to listen to those instructions.”
Here is some key information that patients may receive before discharge.

Medicine Management

You may leave with a prescription from your doctor. It’s critical that the prescription is filled and finished—even if you start feeling better while taking it.
“The reason you leave the Hospital feeling so well is because someone has been in charge of your schedule and ensuring that you are taking your medications on time,” Dr. DiLisi explains. “Medications have a cumulative effect. You need to take all of it just the way it was prescribed.”
Virginia Hospital Center’s staff will ask about the medicines you were taking prior to admission. If the doctor has prescribed a new dosage of a medicine for you to take, they will point that out.

Physician Follow-up

Most patients also leave the Hospital with a follow-up doctor’s appointment already scheduled. Doctors at Virginia Hospital Center say that 50 percent of patients don’t show up for that appointment.
“Some patients are not used to going to the doctor when they feel well,” Bishop notes. “Going to the appointment is vital to a safe and healthy recovery regardless of how much better a patient feels after being discharged. If you wait until you’re sick, you can end up in a crisis situation, have to go to the emergency room and be readmitted.”
If you aren’t feeling well after you leave the Hospital, call your doctor right away. Don’t wait for the follow-up appointment.

Diet

Some patients, such as those with newly diagnosed diabetes or heart failure, will have a consultation with a dietitian while they’re in the Hospital and leave with a specific diet. If that’s you, it’s important to stay on the diet the doctor has prescribed, says Cheryl Moore, RD, Assistant Director of Patient Services.
“In the Hospital, we leave our business card so the family can contact us about the patient’s diet recommendations,” Moore says. “If they still have questions about their diet after discharge from the Hospital, they can talk to their physician and request a referral for outpatient nutrition counseling.”

Telephone Follow-up

Within a few days, every patient will receive a phone call from the discharge nurse. “We will ask them about their Hospital stay, about their pain, if they are comfortable, and if they have any additional questions since their discharge,” Bishop says. This is a perfect time to ask any follow-up questions, so it’s a good idea to jot down those questions and have them handy for that phone call or for the follow-up doctor’s appointment.
For patients whose diagnoses make them especially at risk for readmission, including patients who were treated for pneumonia, a heart attack or heart failure, a nurse practitioner also may call to follow-up.
Following your discharge instructions helps you get back on track to be healthy and achieve the successful outcomes you and your doctor want,” Dr. DiLisi says. “Your health is the priority. If you follow these steps, it increases your chances of a full recovery.”

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