Leaving the hospital? Here is why you need to see your primary care doctor – even if you feel better
You breathe a sigh of relief, you’re going home. You’re being discharged from the hospital and you can’t wait to go home.
The last thing on your mind is to relive your hospital stay. But did you know that one out of every five Medicare patients returns to the hospital within one month of discharge? Can you imagine ending up back in the hospital within the next 30 days? It’s traumatizing just thinking about it.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Seventy-five percent of Medicare hospital re-admissions (where a patients ends up back in the hospital in 30 days) may be preventable.
One of the things you can do to avoid ending up back in the hospital is to see your primary care doctor within 7 to 14 days of being discharged.
1. You’re at risk for ending up back in the hospital in the next 30 days
- You need follow-up care.
- 90% of readmissions among seniors within 30 days are unplanned and are likely a result of poor care coordination and continuity of care. Only half of re-hospitalized patients saw a physician after they were discharged.
- It’s comforting to think that your primary doctor has been communicating with the doctors that took care of you in the hospital. But the reality is that your doctor may not know that you’ve been hospitalized.
- You can bridge this gap by setting up an appointment to see your primary care doctor.
- Evidence suggests that patients who see a doctor within 7-14 days of being discharged are significantly less likely to end up back in the hospital.
2. You’re at risk for medication errors
- You need help with your medications.
- 88% of emergency hospital admissions among elderly patients are due to adverse effects related to medication, two thirds of which are readmissions.
- Don’t assume that the hospital knows what medications you are already taking. And don’t assume that your doctor knows what new medications you were prescribed in the hospital. In many cases, the computers in your doctor’s office are not connected to the computers in the hospital.
- A visit with your primary care doctor helps you reconcile all medications between those you were prescribed in the hospital and / or skilled nursing facility and your current or previous medications.
- This accurate and updated medication list will help avoid medication errors that can lead to a hospital readmission.
3. You’re at risk for complications
- A visit with your primary care doctor will help you understand how you take your medications, what your signs and symptoms mean, and what you need to do about them.
- You need to learn to recognize what is a ‘normal’ expectation during recovery.
- What are ‘red flags’ and ‘warning signs’ that tell you your condition is getting worse? At what point do you need to call your doctor?
- Catching these signs before it’s too late will help keep you from being readmitted to the hospital.
What you need to do
If you have been discharged from the hospital, emergency room, or skilled nursing facility (nursing home):
- Call to make an appointment to see your primary care doctor within 7-14 days of discharge.
- Bring all your medications to your appointment (including supplements, vitamins, herbs, and over-the-counter drugs).
- Put them in a bag or “brown bag” them.
- Ask about why and how you are going to take your medications.
Ask your doctor:
- What signs and symptoms do I need to look out for?
- What should I do about them?
- When do I call your office? When do I seek emergency care?
For more information or additional questions, contact your primary care doctor’s office.