How Discharge Instructions Affect the Patient Experience

emergency_room[1]A Case in point

Thanks to a recent trip to my local emergency room for upper respiratory problems, I experienced first-hand the crucial role that clear, personalized discharge instructions play in a patient’s recovery, as well as in the overall care experience. Upon arriving in ER late one night, my local hospital’s very personal, capable ER staff moved me from triage through diagnoses and treatment with efficiency and care. They swiftly relieved my pain and fear, running multiple tests and treating my issues with thorough professionalism and alacrity; in fact, I returned home to my own bed within 2.5 hours of departing for the hospital!

That’s when my grateful admiration turned to disappointment, coloring my entire view of my ER experience. My discharge instructions, an integral part of my recovery at home, proved to be quite long, vague at best, and not even specific to my case. I received ten pages of generic instructions that amounted to an automatic printout of garbled words, with no input from my diligent ER doctor. They did not even address me, but “you and your child.” Really? As the paying patient, I was offended by such carelessness, not to mention frustrated and confused by the instructions. They blatantly contradicted the “core measures” commitment printout that the hospital eagerly handed me earlier. Talk about disillusioning.

I had to call the hospital’s busy ER staff the next morning for clarification on my treatment. I took the opportunity to connect with the ED Director, relating how my wonderful patient experience was ruined by the substandard, generic discharge instruction. She shared with me that they didn’t get to consider or vote on their discharge instructions and that they were “just built in” to their EMR. ER departments across the country strive to deliver fast, accurate, compassionate care, while improving efficiency and patient/family satisfaction. Why ruin that effort with the one lasting imprint a patient takes home and relies upon?

MF, a patient who recently visited an emergency room in the Chicago area

 

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