Preparing for Discharge from the Hospital

Courtesy Bristol HospitalDuring your stay in a hospital, nursing home, or other healthcare setting, the staff will work with you to plan for your discharge. You and your caregiver are important members of the planning team.

Tips for planning your discharge from the hospital:

  • Ask your doctor for your anticipated discharge plan so that you can organize and schedule your post-discharge appointments before you leave the hospital.  It also helps your family and friends plan for your anticipated trip home.
  • Your post-discharge appointment should occur within seven days of leaving the hospital, ask your doctors for his or her specific recommendation, as it may be shorter or longer depending on your medical condition.  
  • Ask your doctor if he or she anticipates that you may need home-health aide assistance, and if so, ask them to request the consult for you so a plan can be begin to be created.
  • Some form of communication should occur between the hospital physician and your primary care physician on the day of your discharge. A detailed summary should be delivered within one week.
  • Your discharge summary should include diagnoses, pertinent history and physical findings, dates of hospitalization, hospital course, results of procedures and abnormal studies, consultant recommendations, information given to the patient and family, functional status, reconciled medication regimen (with reasons for any changes and indications for new medications), details of follow-up arrangements made, specific follow-up needs (including appointments or procedures that need to be scheduled, and tests pending at discharge), and name and contact information for the hospital physician.
  • Ask for a copy of the discharge summary and bring it with you to your follow-up visit so that your primary care physician can review it.
  • Get the contact information for your discharging physician and instructions for whom to contact if you have questions about your discharge instructions when you get home.
  • If your clinician gave you a new prescription, there are several questions you should ask.
    • What is the name of the medicine?
    • How do you spell the name?
    • Can I take a generic version of this medicine?
    • What is the medicine for?
    • How am I supposed to take it?
    • When should I take my medicine?
    • How much medicine should I take?
    • How long do I need to take the medicine?
    • When will the medicine start working?
    • Can I stop taking my medicine if I feel better?
    • Can I get a refill?
    • Are there any side effects?
    • When should I tell someone about a side effect?
    • Do I need to avoid any food, drinks, or activities?
    • Does this new prescription mean I should stop taking any other medicines I'm taking now?
    • What should I do if I forget to take my medicine?
    • What should I do if I accidentally take more than the recommended dose?
    • Is there any written information I can take home with me?
    • Are there any tests I need to take while I'm on this medicine?

Click on these links for additional information and a checklist you can use to plan for a safe discharge. Your Discharge Planning Worksheet or A Family Caregiver's Guide to Hospital Discharge Planning.