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Discharge from the hospital can be a deadly time

When they are discharged from the hospital, few patients realize that they are in the midst of a dangerous transition; they are just happy to be going home. But badly coordinated care plans often dog their transition to home health agencies or nursing care, research indicates.

One assistant professor at Baltimore's Hopkins School of Medicine reported, "Poor transitional care is a huge . . . issue for everybody, but especially for older people with complex needs. The most risky transition is from hospital to home."

Medication mistakes are a common cause of complications in recently discharged patients. The federal government considers them to be "a major patient safety and public health issue." When Kaiser Health News analyzed government records, they found that medication errors frequently go undetected by home health personnel.

In one five-year period, an analysis determined that inspectors discovered 3,016 home health agencies -- almost 25 percent of the agencies scrutinized by Medicare -- that failed to adequately review or track the medications prescribed to new patients. In some instances, nurses never realized their patients were prescribed potentially dangerous combos of medicines that put them at high risk for bleeding disorders, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms and kidney damage.

The science and chief medical officer at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a nonprofit agency, found that using different providers after getting discharged from the hospital creates fertile grounds for errors. This is due to the episodic nature of care at various places during different times, as it is "not designed to keep the overall safety of the patient in mind."

One problem is the dearth of communication and organization among separate branches of the medical system. Congress appropriated $30 billion to facilitate the shift to electronic medical records as part of an error reduction plan designed to make it easier to coordinate patient care. Yet none of the money was directed to rehab centers, nursing homes or home health agencies.

At each point of contact with a patient, problems can occur. Data from federal agencies shows that less than 50 percent of patients being discharged from the hospital are confident they understand their discharge instructions regarding self-care.

If you suffered a worsened medical condition due to an improper discharge, you may want to consider your legal options.

Source: The Washington Post, "Hospital discharge: It's one of the most dangerous periods for patients," Jordan Rau, accessed June 03, 2016

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