Most people think going home from the hospital means the danger has passed. Far from it. Twenty Percent of Patients suffere an adverse event during the first three weeks after discharge, including adverse drug events, infections, and procedural complications. But, the vast majority should not happen at all. The attached report from The US Department of Health and Human Services explains why. So, what can patients do to protect themselves and their loved ones?
First, three things must be addressed: 1) The patient's medications must be cross-checked to ensure that no chronic medications were stopped and to ensure the safety of new prescriptions, 2) Information on medication changes, pending tests and studies, and follow-up needs must be accurately and promptly communicated to outpatient physicians; and, 3) Patients (and their families) must understand their diagnosis, their follow-up needs, and whom to contact with questions or problems after discharge.
The first lesson for the patient and family is to ask questions about these three areas and insist on getting answers. And, take a copy of the related documants to your regular physician.