Did You Understand Your Discharge Instructions?

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When you leave the hospital, either after surgery, an admission, or ER visit, you should leave with a set of discharge instructions. These written directions provide crucial information about your post-hospital care. Unfortunately, discharge instructions can be unclear to the patient, or hospital staff members may neglect to properly explain the instructions. Vague discharge instructions may lead to further health problems, unnecessary readmissions, and concern and anxiety amongst the patient’s family. In the worst-case scenarios, improper discharge processes may cost a patient his or her life.

After a hospital visit, you should understand:

  • What follow-up appointments you need to make
  • What medications to take, including the dose and frequency
  • Your dietary instructions
  • Your post-hospital care, including when you can return to work
  • What pains and symptoms are normal to experience
  • What to do if your symptoms fail to improve or worsen
  • When to call a doctor or 9-1-1

Mistakes Hospitals Make

Studies show that a significant number of patients leave the hospital without understanding their discharge instructions. Take, for example, a 2015 study from the American Journal of Surgery. The report found that in a sample of 497 patients (with a mean age of 55), only 24% had the literacy ability to comprehend their discharge directions.

There are many mistake healthcare professionals can make in the issuing and explaining of discharge instructions, such as:

  • Giving instructions while the patient is still drowsy from anesthesia
  • Providing instruction that are not written in plain language
  • Giving vague or contradictory instructions
  • Explaining the directions to a patient without a family member or caregiver present
  • Not giving the caregiver enough instruction about his/her role

Experts recommend writing discharge direction in clear, easy to understand language, free of medical jargon and inconsistencies. They also recommend having a caregiver present so he or she can digest the information and be clear on his or her duties. In some situations, a social worker should be present.

Certain populations are even more vulnerable to not understanding discharge instructions, such as:

  • Elderly persons
  • Patients with poor eyesight
  • Patients for whom English is not their first language
  • Patients who are unable to read

If a doctor, nurse, or other hospital staff member fails to give you accurate discharge instructions that you can comprehend, and you are severely harmed as a result, it may rise to the level of malpractice.

Trust our Accomplished medical malpractice attorneys in Baltimore and Washington D.C.

The award-winning firm of Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A. has been helping medical malpractice victims since 1984. We come highly rated by our peers and clients, not just because our lawyers deliver results, but because we put our clients’ needs first. Please arrange a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with our firm today by calling 410-234-1000 or completing a contact form.