OBJECTIVES: Patients are 30% less likely to be readmitted or visit the emergency department if they have a clear understanding of their discharge instructions. A standardized approach to a hospital discharge plan has not been universally implemented, however. Our goal was to increase patients' comprehension of discharge instructions by implementing a standardized patient-centered discharge planning protocol that uses a physician team member to explain these plans.
METHODS: This was a prospective study that included all of the patients discharged from an inpatient medical teaching service in a community-based hospital during the study period. We used two 4-week periods separated by 4 months in which training and practice with the study intervention took place. Patients' understanding of discharge instructions was assessed via a follow-up telephone call from a physician co-investigator within 1 week of each patient's discharge. Differences in patients' understanding between groups were analyzed.
RESULTS: A total of 181 patients were enrolled, with 9 lost to follow-up. After implementation of the discharge planning protocol, a statistically significant improvement in patients' understanding was found in study subjects' knowledge of their diagnosis, the adverse effects of their medications, whom to call after discharge, and follow-up appointments.
CONCLUSIONS: Institution of a standardized patient-centered discharge planning protocol can improve patients' understanding of several key components of their discharge process, which may lead to improved compliance with instructions and outcomes.
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