Wellness Matters

3 Questions to Ask to Avoid an Early Return to the Hospital

July 18, 2016

When a patient is released from the hospital, they are given instructions on what medicines to take, when to take them, and what rehabilitation therapy would help them on their road to recovery. Once patients get home, trying to remember everything can feel overwhelming. Often, patients become confused about medication and appointments, which can lead to a return to the hospital. The best way to help yourself or your loved one prevent a return trip, is to practice asking questions and writing down the answers.

“Ask Me 3” is an educational program created by the National Patient Safety Foundation. According to this program, the three most important questions to ask your doctor, nurse or caregiver are:
  1. “What is My Main Problem?” - It’s important to understand what brought you to the hospital in the first place. Are you suffering from a chronic condition or has this visit been caused by a new illness? What exactly brought you to the doctor or hospital?
  2. “What Do I Need to Do?” – Every patient gets a discharge summary when they leave the hospital, but asking clarifying questions can help you better understand what to do next. Ask questions like: Was the issue resolved or do I need more treatment? Has there been a change in medication and, if so, what do I do with my old medication? Do I need to make lifestyle changes to prevent future trips to the hospital and what kind? Do I need to make follow-up appointments and with whom? Will someone be coming to my home? When should I expect them? What signs or symptoms can I look for to catch an illness early?
  3. “Why is it Important for Me to Do This?” – After patients leave, they may not understand the importance of the recommendations they receive. Ask your doctor why each step is important, and what it means as part of your recovery.
When you leave the hospital, it can be hard to understand all of the information they give you, which is why it’s important to ask questions until you understand. Your providers and caregivers are happy to explain things as long as you ask, and don’t hesitant to write down what they tell you. It can be hard to remember everything after you get home, and having notes to look back at can help you more clearly remember your next steps. At Cone Health, we want to make sure our patients continue getting better, even after they return home.

About the Author

Michelle D. White, RN, MSN is the Director of HomeCare Providers and Alamance Cares affiliated with Alamance Regional Medical Center.

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