Problems after an early discharge from the hospital

When you're sick and in the hospital, you should be discharged when your condition is resolved, not just because your insurance company wants you out of there in a hurry.

Unfortunately, that may be exactly what happens to far too many patients. Within a month of being discharged, bout 20 percent of patients develop serious complications — and the majority of those are preventable.

What sort of things lead to the devastating health problems patients experience after being released from hospitals? Consider these known discharge issues:

  • Around 40 percent of patients are released from the hospital while their medical tests are still pending.
  • An equal percentage are sent home without a full diagnostic workup.
  • Complications from inpatient procedures are frequently experienced.
  • Hospital-acquired infections are a problem for many patients.
  • Adverse drug events are considered common.
  • Dictated summaries of a patient's care and discharge instructions generally won't reach a patient's primary care doctor in a timely period.
  • Summaries that do reach the primary care physicians rapidly are often incomplete.

Add to these deplorable facts the reality that many patients with complex problems lack appropriate care at home after they're discharged. They may have to rely on family members for what care they do receive or muddle through with self-care.

One of the biggest problems that patients face after being discharged is changes in their medications. Hospitals don't always take the time to make sure patients fully understand their new medications. Nor do they make sure patients comprehend which of their old medications to discontinue. That can lead to deadly drug interactions and overdoses.

While government health care programs like Medicare have started to penalize hospitals for discharging patients too soon by withholding payments when patients are readmitted too frequently, hospitals and doctors could do more to prevent these kinds of medical errors.

If you believe that you were harmed by a premature hospital discharge, that may be a form of medical malpractice. Consider holding the hospital accountable for their errors through legal means.

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Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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