Today, health care is a team effort with each individual playing an important role. Depending upon the situation, the team might consist of physicians, nurses, dieticians, pharmacists, and therapists to name a few health care professionals. But the most important individual on the team is the patient.
“Too often the person on a health care team that is left off the scorecard is the patient,” says Marilyn J. Heine, MD, 2012 president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. “But, to use some baseball terminology, the patient is not only the lead-off hitter but also the closer.”
According to Dr. Heine, patients not only need to initiate the health care process, but they also have to close the loop within the care plan. For example, she says, a patient may start the process with a complaint about back pain. As the health care team works on the issue, a mutual decision may be made to operate. But, what happens after the surgery when the patient heads home from the hospital or surgical center?
“That’s when problems could arise,” says Dr. Heine, explaining the care is now partly in the hands of the patient. “Without health care professionals around, the patient’s responsibility increases significantly, and some simple actions might supply the answer to avoid heading back to the hospital.”
Dr. Heine suggests the following tips to prevent a hospital readmission.
Before surgery, make sure you fully understand the post-operation instructions. Make sure your health care team has given you both oral and written instructions while providing you an opportunity to ask questions.
Before you have surgery, make sure you have a post-operative follow-up visit scheduled with your physician in a timely manner.
If you’ll need to use a nursing home or home health professional make sure those arrangements have been made before the surgery.
If your recovery plan includes taking medications, make sure you have access to the medications and follow instructions on how and when to take them.
“Health care is already complex, but these tips are simple ways for any patient to help avoid being readmitted to the hospital,” Dr. Heine says. “Fortunately, many health care teams are instituting intervention methods to help patients arrange post-operative care and to encourage patients to take their medications, but the patient’s responsibility plays an important role.”
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