A recent study found that patients who were admitted for a heart event – heart failure, heart attack or other cardiac problem – are often back in the hospital in less than 30 days for non-heart reasons.
Cleveland Clinic’s Umesh Khot, MD, vice chair of the Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, says hospitals and physicians are always looking for ways to reduce readmissions. “It’s not easy to find strategies that make a profound difference,” he says, “but we keep trying.”
Good communication between caregivers and patients is key.
He stresses that one of the best strategies is good communication between caregivers and patients upon discharge. One of the most common problems is patients not knowing what medications to take, or taking them incorrectly.
As a patient – or the loved one of a patient – you have an important role to play in preventing readmission. Dr. Khot urges people to follow these tips while at the hospital:
1. Know your medications and take them as prescribed. “The most important thing patients can do to prevent readmission is to have a clear understanding of the medicines they need to take and to make sure they take them as prescribed,” Dr. Khot says.
2. Speak up about how you’re feeling before being discharged from the hospital. While some signs of possible readmission can be monitored (such as blood pressure), patients need to alert their doctors to things such as light-headedness or trouble breathing before leaving.
3. Ask what’s expected after discharge and make proper follow-up appointments. “Patients should know when and with whom to follow up with in the outpatient clinic,” Dr. Khot says, emphasizing that follow-up appointments are important to adjust medications and therapy as the patient recovers. In addition, participating in cardiac rehabilitation saves lives and includes valuable information for individuals living with heart disease.
4. Two sets of ears are better than one. Try to have a relative or friend with you to listen to your discharge instructions.
5. Get it in writing. Written instructions regarding your medications and any other treatment or follow-up exam information are great resources to carry with you.
6. Make the pharmacy a priority. Get your prescriptions filled as soon as possible after leaving the hospital, so there is no lapse in starting your new regimen.
7. Consider home healthcare services, at least for the short term, after discharge. A visiting nurse may help you get started on the right medication routine and any other changes you need to make once you’re home.
Always call your healthcare provider if you get home and cannot remember or do not understand your discharge instructions. Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute patients have access to a nurse 24/7 to answer questions after they leave the hospital.