Hospital Discharge Guide
Part 1: How to Navigate the Hospital Discharge Process
If your loved one is currently in the hospital due to a major injury, illness, or other health event, it may be a difficult time for you both. Supporting them through this experience and helping them prepare for recovery can be stressful, especially when you don’t know who to ask or where to get help.
You are not alone. There are over 35 million hospital discharges in the United States each year. NurseRegistry has helped thousands of families through the discharge process. We created a comprehensive guide on the discharge process to help you prepare for your loved one’s discharge.
The goal of this guide is to prepare you for the discharge process. We will walk you through a hospital discharge—important considerations, the key players involved, and steps to take after discharge. This guide is useful for patients of all ages. However, if you need help during the discharge process, contact our expert team at 650 462-1001 to help you coordinate post-hospital care for your loved one.
Here is an overview of the hospital discharge process. If you would like to jump to a particular section, click the corresponding heading.
Planning for Discharge
Your loved one is going to the hospital, or perhaps they are already a patient. Regardless of whether or not the visit was planned, it is a difficult time for both of you. It will be a little easier if you know what to expect.
Hospitals typically screen most inpatients within two days of entering the hospital to determine if they need a discharge plan. Medicare requires that hospitals create discharge plans for patients who are at high risk for complications. It can be beneficial to create one even if the hospital does not require it. A discharge plan supports a smooth recovery and helps prevent avoidable hospital readmissions.
What is Discharge Planning?
Hospital discharge planning is a process used to decide what a patient will need for a smooth transition from one level of care to another. There are a variety of options when it comes to deciding where a person will be discharged to. Options include the home, a rehabilitative or long-term healthcare facility, or other permanent residence. Healthcare professionals can help create a discharge plan, but only a doctor can provide an authorization for discharge.
Discharge is most successful when addressed by a group of health care professionals. A team approach is especially important for patients with complex medical conditions or other complicated cases.
On a basic level, a discharge plan consists of the following elements:
Evaluation. First and foremost, hospital staff will evaluate the patient and their needs. The process includes determining what type of care is adequate for the patient, the availability of local health care services, and the availability and capability of family and friends to provide follow-up care.
Discussion. A discharge planner or other hospital staff member will share the discharge plan with the patient or their representative. The plan should include what type of care the patient needs, who will provide the care, and where the patient will be discharged to. It should also include a list of all medications and dosage information, along with details on how to administer medication, the frequency of doses, and anything else that is considered important by staff. Discharge plans are often written in simple language and should be easy to understand. Hospitals are required to review the plan with the patient.
Preparation. After the plan is outlined, services and supplies should be coordinated. Services include arranging the transfer from the hospital to the home or to a facility, organizing care, and ordering medical supplies. Often, hospitals can refer home care or home health agencies and other support organizations.
Implementation. Upon discharge, your loved one should be able to smoothly transition home or to a facility by following the discharge plan. If the doctor recommends follow-up appointments or tests, schedule them and ensure transportation is available to and from the appointments.
The stress of a hospital stay can be intensified if you and your loved one do not know what to expect. Communication is key to success. As you help prepare a discharge plan, discuss the following topics with your loved one’s discharge planner and review the checklist on the following page to ensure that you have the necessary information before leaving the hospital.
Questions to Ask the Discharge Planner
- What is the expected rate of discharge?
- What type of care will your loved one be required to have upon discharge? (Talk about the level of skilled care and services required to provide the necessary care.)
- Will your loved one need assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), or more advanced care?
- What discharge options are recommended by staff?
- Can you provide me with a list of providers for aftercare?
- Can you provide me with a list of resources for additional information or support?
Get your free Discharge Planning Checklist (Medication Management Worksheet and Appointment Organizer included).
During a hospital visit, it can be easy to get lost in all of the information and paperwork. Between treatments, medical tests, or surgeries, the process can be overwhelming.
Take notes on all of the information you receive so you can review it later if you need to. It is possible that you and your loved may forget important details or think of questions later on.
Gather these notes, along with other important documents, and keep them all in one folder. If possible, take a photo of notes and paperwork as a back-up copy. These photos will allow you to easily share important information with relatives or professionals involved on the case and is accessible wherever you go.
To learn more about how a private duty nurse can ease the transition into post-hospital care, call (650) 462-1001 to speak with a NurseRegistry Care Advisor.
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And we’ll match you with a nurse for skilled care after a hospital stay