Hospital discharge: Why it’s getting more dangerous for patients

Rushed through discharge? You’re not alone. In hospitals across the country, federal data reveals that fewer than half of patients say they confidently understood the instructions of how to care for themselves after discharge. And as patients are spending less time in hospitals after surgery and more time healing and caring for themselves at home, they’re facing increasing dangers such as complications and infections that require readmissions.

Readmissions and complications are a growing problem for older adults. In fact, recent research shows that about one in six Medicare patients now return to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged for a medical condition. One reason? Patients are being rushed through discharge instructions—often because there’s not enough time to give patients the quality care they need.

“It’s very important that patients and healthcare providers communicate clearly so that all questions are answered and everyone understands what will happen when the patient leaves the hospital,” Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded a study involving readmission rates.

Here in Minnesota, nurses say understaffing by hospitals is causing risks to patient safety, including patients being rushed through discharge. In 2015, nurses filed more than 2,700 Concern for Safe Staffing forms, citing incidents where patient care was compromised or at risk due to understaffing by hospitals. Among them: more than 14 percent of nurses filing forms said that discharge instructions were rushed or incomplete.

Studies show that better nurse staffing is directly linked to lower readmission rates in hospitals. In one study, hospitals with higher nurse staffing levels had 41 percent lower odds of receiving the maximum penalty for readmissions, compared with hospitals with lower staffing.

“More nurse staffing has an impact on patient outcomes in many ways,” said Matthew D. McHugh, associate professor in nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. The study echoed Linda Aiken and other nursing researchers’ work about the importance of staffing in reducing complications, falls, infections, and patient mortality.

We want to know: Have you visited a Minnesota hospital and not received proper discharge instructions? We want to hear your story.

Patient Story

arlene townsend staffing award

Unsafe staffing costs a Florida facility $1 billion

From Trial Magazine, March 2014 issue: Trial Magazine, 3/11/14 VERDICTS & SETTLEMENTS Arlene Townsend, 63 suffered a stroke and required 24-hour care. She was admitted to Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center, a nursing home owned by Trans Healthcare, Inc. In the three years leading up to her death, Townsend suffered numerous fall resulting in broken bones and lacerations, infections, significant weight loss, chronic constipation, skin breakdowns, dehydration, and other problems. She is survived by her adult son. Townsend’s estate sued Trans Healthcare, alleging that it had understaffed the nursing home to increase profits and failed to provide adequate care, including protecting Townsend from falls, ensuring a safe environment, and documenting changes to her condition. The court entered a judgment of liability against the defendant, and the…
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