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Before leaving the hospital: Your discharge planning checklist

Leaving the hospital after being sick or sustaining an injury is sometimes a stressful and confusing experience. One national Medicare study found that nearly one in five hospital admissions resulted in readmission within 30 days of discharge. People who are readmitted to the hospital tend to be older and have multiple chronic illnesses. The following factors may lead to high readmission rates for people with a chronic illness:

  • Inadequate information given by hospital discharge planners to patients, caregivers, and post-hospital providers
  • Poor patient compliance with their care plan
  • Insufficient reliance on family caregivers
  • The worsening of a patient’s clinical condition
  • Medical errors

It’s important to know what kind of medical and support care you are going to need when you return home. You and your caregivers should be treated as part of the discharge planning team. Luckily, the federal government has prepared a convenient “Discharge Planning Checklist” to help patients and families ask the right questions when they’re leaving a hospital or a nursing home.

Your Discharge Planning Checklist

1. What’s Ahead?

  • Where will I get care after discharge? Do I have options? Be sure to tell the staff what you prefer.
  • What family member or friend will be helping me after discharge? Write down their name and phone number.

2. My Condition

  • What is my health condition, and what can I do to help myself get better?
  • Write down a list of all your prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins. Tell the hospital staff what drugs you took before you were admitted. Ask what each drug is for.

3. Recovery & Support

  • Will I need medical equipment? Who will arrange for this?
  • Will I need help with common tasks such as bathing, dressing, using the toilet, grocery shopping, or picking up prescriptions?
  • What other tasks will require special skills? For example, will I have to change my bandages or give myself a shot? Can I be trained to do this?
  • Is there a counselor or support group in my area for people who are coping with my illness?
  • What help can I get in paying for care I need? Who can I talk to about what my insurance will cover, and how much I will have to pay?
  • Can I get written discharge instructions and a summary of my health status?
  • Can you write down any appointments or tests I need in the next few weeks?

4. For the Caregiver

  • What questions do you have about items on this checklist? What items on this list can you help me with?
  • Can you get my prescriptions ahead of time so we don’t have to make extra trips after I'm discharged?

Always remember to keep asking questions until you get answers that make sense to you. If you feel you are being rushed out of the hospital too soon, ask the staff for your “notice of non-coverage”, and once you have that, call 1-800-252-5533 to make an appeal with MassPRO.