Avoiding Hospital Readmission

Almost everyone is relieved to be discharged from a hospital stay. Unfortunately, many of those people find themselves returning to the hospital just days or weeks later. Sometimes, readmission is unavoidable. Many readmissions, though, can be prevented. Here are steps patients and their families can take to increase the chances of staying home following hospital discharge.

Understand Your Condition

Ask your doctor(s) to explain your condition to you using language you can understand. Medical issues can be very complicated. Do not be embarrassed to ask for explanations of terms you don’t know. Ask about any danger signs associated with your condition and how to recognize them. Have a plan for what to do if any of those signs appear. Before you leave the hospital, determine who you will call: during the day, at night and on weekends.

Confirm where you are going after you leave the hospital.

Do not assume that you are being discharged to your home. Your doctor may want you to go directly to a rehabilitation center or a skilled nursing facility. Ask the staff.

Ask your doctors and medical staff questions.

Your doctor and the medical staff are supposed to answer your questions about your health and care. It's part of their job. Do not worry that you are "bothering" them. If you do not understand an answer, ask for a simpler explanation.

Repeat It Back

Nurses, physicians, and other personnel will probably give you instructions to follow after discharge. Repeat these instructions back to them to make sure you heard and understood correctly. Write the instructions down. Don’t assume the information will be included in your hospital discharge papers.

Make a Schedule

Make a schedule of the office appointments and tests that should follow your discharge from the hospital. If possible, schedule these appointments before you leave the hospital.

When You Leave The Hospital

When you leave the hospital, you may be taking medications that are new or different from what you were taking when you were admitted. Make a list of all your medications, new and old. For each medication, write down:

  • What the medication is for
  • Where to obtain the medication (The hospital? An outside pharmacy?)
  • How often you should take the medication (Once a day? Every six hours? After meals?)
  • How long you should continue to take the medication (A week? A month? Indefinitely?)
  • Whether you will need refills and where you should get them
  • Any food or supplements you should avoid while taking the medication
  • Any possible side effects you may notice from the medication

You may need special equipment following your discharge, such as a walker, a wheelchair, or an oxygen tank. Make a list of this equipment. For each item, find out:

  • Whether you will receive the equipment before you leave the hospital
  • Who will provide the equipment (The hospital, or an outside company?)
  • Who will show you how to use the equipment properly
Tell Your Doctor

Inform your primary care doctor about your hospital stay, particularly if it was an unscheduled or emergency admission. Do not assume the hospital has communicated with your primary doctor. Ask that a copy of your medical records be sent to your doctor.

Last Reviewed: 5/25/2016