How to make the most of a discharge planning meeting

  • Before you leave the hospital, you may have a discharge planning meeting.

    Before you leave the hospital, you may have a discharge planning meeting. Getty Images

  • Teri Dreher

    Teri Dreher

 
By Teri Dreher
Special to the Daily Herald

Have you ever attended a discharge planning meeting, either as a patient or family caregiver?

In this day and age, every healthcare consumer should know what these are.

Discharge planning meetings are held when patients are about to be released from the hospital or another medical facility. Their purpose is to ensure a smooth transition and set the patient up for a positive medical outcome.

However, some discharge planning meetings are more effective than others. That's why it's important to know what to expect and how to get the most from these meetings.

Who attends discharge planning meeting?

Typically initiated by the facility's discharger planner, meetings generally include the patient, family and the patient's nurses and therapists. (While physicians don't always attend, they do provide instructions.)

However, for the sessions to be truly effective, all parties involved in the future care of the patient should attend. After all, they're the ones who'll make sure the care plan is followed.

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That means the private patient advocate should be there, if the family's engaged one, as well as the patient's home care agency, if care is required.

Unfortunately, often families haven't chosen a home care agency at this point in the process. Sometimes, they're handed a list of agencies at the meeting, which puts them under the gun to make a decision quickly. It's preferable when this is done in advance.

"Our RN attends discharge planning meetings whenever possible," says Sam Cross, founder of Broad Street Home Care Services in Wilmette. "It provides key information we'll incorporate into our plan of service."

"Being part of the original conversation helps ensure the right procedures are followed -- i.e., medication, nutrition, exercise. It helps us better monitor the client at home, so we can convey information to the provider."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Elements of an effective meeting

A thorough discharge planning session will cover all the following:

• A detailed discussion of the patient's current condition and ultimate goal.

• The projected discharge date.

• Specific plans for the physical move -- i.e., who will be chauffeuring the patient?

• A review of necessary safety precautions and medical equipment.

• Caregiving requirements, whether provided by family or a home care agency.

• Continued rehabilitation activities (diet, nutrition, exercise, etc.)

• A complete list of medications and instructions for taking them.

• Symptoms to watch for and what to do if there are complications.

• Referrals to any additional support organizations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Required follow-up appointments, tests, therapy, etc.

Why it's important

Patients are particularly vulnerable after hospital discharge. Up to 40% of patients experience medications mishaps, and 18% are readmitted within 30 days.

For this reason, it's very important that every instruction be addressed clearly and in detail.

Never hesitate to ask for clarification. And if it's too overwhelming -- as it can be -- ask for someone to advocate for you.

• Teri Dreher, RN, iRNPA, is a Board Certified Patient Advocate and pioneer in the growing field of private patient advocacy.

A critical care nurse for more than 30 years, today she is owner/founder of NShore Patient Advocates, the largest advocacy company in the Chicago area. She was awarded her industry's highest honor, The APHA H. Kenneth Schueler Patient Advocacy Compass Award. She is among the first in her industry to earn the credential of Board Certified Patient Advocate (BCPA). Her 2016 book, "Patient Advocacy Matters," is now in its second printing. www.northshorern.com.

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