By: Paige Lennox
The BC Medical Journal recently published a study (see link below) about patients rights in the hospital after a premature discharge from the hospital. The study shows that the rate of BC patients readmitted to hospitals within a short time after they had been discharged, is well above the national average.
It’s worth noting that Vancouver Coastal Health’s readmission rate is the second-highest for health regions in the province.
This is not much of a surprise considering the bed shortage in hospitals across BC and across Canada. Our health-care system is in a crisis and has only finite resources that are being increasingly stretched as our population ages.
Hospital Bed Shortages Increase Premature Discharge
Unfortunately, hospital discharges, are sometimes based on the need to free up a bed, rather than on a patient’s readiness to leave. Premature discharges leave the patient and family unprepared and often cause significant stress for everyone involved as they don’t know patients rights in the hospital. They can also result in frequent re-hospitalizations as well as patient injury and, in extreme cases, even death. It can also lead to caregiver injury and burnout.
Many of these problems can be solved with proper Discharge Planning. CHAI Health Advocates can be an active part of this process. We will do our best to ensure patients have adequate resources in place to meet their needs once they leave the hospital.
Hospital resources and staffing are often stretched thin and things may be overlooked. Patients and caregivers need to ask questions and plan ahead. Planning is the key to many aspects of health management.
Initial Steps to Take
Medical appointments: Plan to have someone attend medical appointments with you as well as someone available during hospitalization. The person you pick should be good in a crisis, have strong communication skills, and be willing to ask questions.
Emergencies: Gather your medical information and put it somewhere that is easy to find. This can be a formal Personal Information Form or just a piece of paper you’ve written up yourself. Paramedics are trained to look on your fridge and freezer for these types of documents.
Don’t assume that medical records at one hospital or doctor’s office are available to another hospital or physician. You need to have all your information ready to travel with you. These documents should include the following:
Who you are
Your emergency contact
Who can make medical decisions for you
Information about your current medical conditions
Any other relevant information
Hospital discharge: If you know in advance that you are going to be discharged, find out what you will need in terms of medical equipment, medical and personal care, household help, and so on. The best way to avoid a crisis is with good preparation. See our blog Discharging Elderly Patients From Hospital to Home or Residential Care.
Plan for incapacity: At some point, all of us will need to make medical decisions in keeping with our values and wishes. Consider a Representation Agreement (in BC) or a Personal Directive/Power of Attorney for Health/Incapacity Plan (in other provinces).
Plan for death: Talking about death can be a hard conversation to start, but the more you talk about it, the easier you’ll find it. Make talking about it the norm, and give your loved ones the gift of planning for End of Life.
By planning in advance, you will be empowered and proactive in making sure you are getting the best possible care for yourself. Health Advocates play an important role in this process and can help ensure that you have adequate resources in place before they’re needed, including prior to discharge from the hospital.
BC Medical Journal: Unplanned hospital readmissions in British Columbia