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Be Your Own Patient Advocate

Five important steps to avoid being hospitalized — again

E-News Feburary 2013 Stay Out of the Hospital

No one likes to be in the hospital, but once you’re back home, it can be difficult to know the best way to recover and stay healthy.

At Scripps, we want to make sure patients have the information and resources they need to promote healing and wellness not only during their hospital stay, but also when they are back home.

To help ensure a successful recovery, consider the following tips from Sue Erickson, senior director of patient navigation at Scripps Health:

1. Manage medications
Keep an updated list of all of your medications, over-the-counter drugs, natural supplements and herbal medications and share them with your doctor, including:

  • The name (generic or brand name)
  • Dosage
  • What it’s used for
  • When it should be taken
  • How long you should take it

If your doctor prescribes a new medication, ask questions. Find out why it’s being prescribed and if needed, review the dose and directions with your pharmacist. Also, be aware of any side-effects and, if they do occur, know who to call since you may need to adjust your dose, dosage schedule or request a different prescription.

2. Select a patient advocate
Since patients may be groggy from being on medication or lack of sleep while in the hospital or following an outpatient procedure, it’s a good idea to have a close friend or family member present during your discharge. Consider using the “teach back” method. This method requires advocates to repeat the information they’ve learned to ensure patients have a full understanding of the discharge instructions. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions or to share your concerns.

3. Schedule a check-up
If you were recently hospitalized, Erickson highly recommends making an appointment with your primary care physician within seven days of being discharged. Use the appointment to discuss any health concerns or feelings of illness — even if doesn’t relate to your initial hospitalization – so your doctor can help you pinpoint the issue and resolve it quickly. If it has been a while since you’ve seen a doctor for a comprehensive physical exam, schedule an appointment for a complete check-up.

4. Break language barriers
If you or a loved one is more comfortable speaking a language other than English, don’t be afraid to ask for a translator at the hospital. Scripps has bilingual staff available, as well as a translation phone line, to help ensure that information isn’t lost in translation. “We don’t allow language to be a barrier,” says Erickson.

5. Be a part of your navigation team
Scripps Health is working toward offering a system-wide patient navigator program made up of teams of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and other staff to help patients smoothly navigate through the system and help them recover faster. This team is designed to help patients across the continuum of care, from hospital admission to discharge and after they’ve returned home. The navigation team also involves patients in the creation of their care plan. While not every Scripps patient may require a navigation team during their acute care stay, Erickson says outpatient navigators are available to help patients transition when discharged from the hospital.

“We want to make sure our patients have landed safely,” she adds. “It’s about transitioning patients back to their home care environments and ensuring that their health is improving by following up with them.”

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