Leaving the hospital can be a sign that a person is on the road to recovery or has reached a point where his or her care can be managed at home. Many people look forward to this and often consider it the beginning of a new chapter.
Unfortunately, there are some people who cannot move forward as quickly as they would have hoped. For some patients, the 30 days after being released from the hospital can be a vulnerable and fragile period of time and many people develop or continue to experience adverse health conditions that jeopardize their recovery. This is referred to as post-hospital syndrome.
According to a study on post-hospital syndrome, patients leaving the hospital face some amount of risk once they are out of a controlled environment. These risks are preventable and could be signs of hospital negligence.
For example, a person could be discharged prematurely. He or she may still be coping with an acute illness or injury that requires continued medical attention, but for a variety of potentially questionable reasons, doctors may still choose to release the patient.
Stress can also cause significant strain on a person’s health, and making the change from being in a hospital to going back home can be enormously stressful. If a patient is not prepared for the challenges they may be facing or does not have proper support, he or she can experience serious setbacks in terms of their health.
There may also be conditions or infections that developed in the hospital but have gone ignored, missed or misdiagnosed. These can prove to be devastating when patients are left to cope with the untreated conditions on their own.
Socioeconomic conditions affecting patients after they leave the hospital need to be considered as well. For example are patients being prescribed medication they cannot afford when less expensive medications are available?
In order to address post-hospitalization syndrome and keep patients safer after being discharged, it has been suggested that hospitals take better precautions when it comes to examining a patient’s next steps. It has also been suggested that by defining preventable readmissions hospitals will be more effective in transitioning patients. Some steps include carefully assessing their acute condition, recording potential stressors or medical issues that may arise, and being sure to fully inform patients of what they can do to reduce potential complications that may arise after leaving a facility. It is within hospitals’ power to take a great step forward in promoting patient safety and reducing preventable readmissions.
Journal of Hospital Medicine, “Assessing Preventability in the Quest to Reduce Hospital Readmissions” Julia G. Lavenberg et al, Jun. 25, 2014
The New England Journal of Medicine, “Post-Hospital Syndrome – A Condition of Generalized Risk” Harlan M Krumholz MD, Jan. 10, 2013