By the time I reached the sixth day of my hospitalization for stomach cancer surgery, I was antsy to go home and I quizzed each nurse and physician who came into my room about what must happen for me to be liberated the following day. Their responses were consistent: my surgeon would visit in the morning and write orders for my release. Then I would have a comprehensive discussion with my nurse about my discharge plan, after which I could leave.
I was pretty curious about getting that discharge plan. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act raised the stakes for hospitals to reduce high readmission rates and new data on those rates are available. The rates and approaches to reduce them through improved discharge planning are the subject of news reports, journal articles and conferences. And I, a patient in a modern, quality-conscious hospital, was going to experience this process myself!
Here’s a rough transcript of my discharge discussion:
Nurse: Good news! The orders came through! You can go home.
Me: (in the corner untangling wires from my cell phone and iPod chargers) Wonderful. What do I need to know?
Nurse: Here are a couple prescriptions for pain medication. Don’t drive if you take it. Call your surgeon if you have a temperature or are worried about anything. Go see your doctor in two weeks. Do you want a flu shot? I can give you one before you leave. If you need a wheel chair to take you to the door, I’ll call for one. If not, you can go home. Take care of yourself. You are going to do great!
That was it: 8:45 a.m. and I could leave.