Ensuring a Warm Send-Off for Your Clients

handoff

Those of us working in hospital settings hear about discharges all day long. And we track everything about them: monthly rates, handovers, discharge summaries, patient’s perceptions of them.

In the outpatient world, discharges are just as important. When the patient leaves your office, do they know what they need to do next?

No matter the setting, we health care providers have a responsibility to ensure safety and efficiency when discharging a patient from care.

What happens when discharge isn’t done well? Patients experience adverse events due to delayed or absent communication, inaccuracies in information exchange, or ineffective planning or coordination of care between providers, as found recently in a study by Gijs Hesselink and his colleagues. In fact, at least 20 percent of patients report adverse events following discharge, and least half of these adverse events could have been prevented.

So what is your discharge or “thank you, goodbye” practice?  Here are five take-aways to consider:

  • Write it down!  Discharge instructions should be written down for patient understanding, not for compliance and insurance companies.  Don’t worry about saving the trees, give the patient the recommendations/plan of care in writing.  And, if you have it available, the patient should be able to review them at any time on your secure, web-based patient portal that you have available.
  • Share your instructions/plan of care with the patient’s medical home, therapists, and those that need to know!  Handoffs are one of the biggest problems in patient care that leads to adverse events.
  • Check for comprehension!  Having the patient repeat back what they heard is essential.  Using techniques like “Teach Back” or motivational interviewing are great ways to check for comprehension.
  • Make the discharge follow-up phone callMultiple studies show that if a simple phone call is made within 48 hours of the patient being seen or discharged from the hospital, it is a win-win for everyone involved. For outpatients, not only will you keep that person as a patient, but you will get more referrals due to having a happy customer. For hospitals, research shows reduced readmission rates and significant cost savings.
  • Own the discharge process.  When the patient leaves your practice/hospital, everyone who directly and indirectly touched that patient needs to own the process.  Does the patient know when to return?  Does the patient know who to contact if they have problems?  Will the patient tell a friend about the great experience they had?

Are you already doing these five simple things to keep patients safe?  If not, consider one of these for your next Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA).

For additional information about discharge planning, visit leancare.wordpress.com.

Tamala Selke Bradham, PhD, CCC-A, is associate director of quality, protocols, and risk management in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt University. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 9, Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Childhood. This post was adapted from her blog leanhcare.