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  • Writer's pictureDr. Troy Miles

Get Empowered: Taking Change of Your Follow-Up Care

A concerning study published in the American Journal of Surgery has been making headlines, and it’s making physicians across the country re-think the way they handle patient discharges from the hospital.

According to the study, which was conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, many patients leave the hospital without understanding the follow-up care plans that they have been given by their surgeons. Of the 500 trauma patients in this particular study, only 25% understood their dismissal notes.

Although the Mayo Clinic study did not focus on the reasons for this disconnect, researchers have a few theories. Firstly, today’s hospital discharge notes are often written for doctors and they may contain medical jargon that’s difficult for everyday patients and their families to understand. Secondly, some patients can become confused after they’ve been discharged from the hospital—usually because of a combination of the medications they’re on after surgery and the overall stress of hospitalization.

So what’s the answer, and how do we all work together to ensure patients are on the same page as their surgeons upon discharge from the hospital? One of my hopes is that surgeons will use this study as a chance to re-think the discharge instructions we provide to patients. Clearer instructions, written in plain language that doesn’t require a medical degree to decipher, is an important first step. Keeping the lines of communication open, and providing patients and their families with ways to get their questions answered even after they have been discharged from the hospital, is another.

I recommend that patients who have questions be proactive about their follow-up care by contacting the nurse’s station at the hospital floor where they were treated or calling the Shasta Orthopaedics office to ask questions about follow-up care. Having a family member who can provide assistance and care at home following hip replacement or knee replacement surgery is also beneficial to patients.

Most importantly, this study is yet another reminder that surgeons need to be good communicators and they need to work together with their patients for optimal outcomes following surgery.

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