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Patient education: Going home from the hospital (The Basics)

Patient education: Going home from the hospital (The Basics)

What should I do when I am going home from the hospital? — If you are going home from the hospital, it is very important that you find out a few things (table 1). Ask your doctors and nurses these questions:

Why did I have to stay in the hospital?

Which new medicines do I need to take now?

Which of my old medicines do I need to keep taking?

When should I see my regular doctor, and what information should I give my regular doctor about this hospital stay?

What warning signs should I look for that could mean that my problem is coming back or getting worse?

Whom can I call with questions?

Do I need to change my diet or lifestyle?

Each of these issues is discussed in more detail below.

Reason for hospital stay — Many people leave the hospital without really understanding why they were there. Before you leave, find out the reason for your hospital stay. Find out:

What the doctors learned about your condition

What the doctors did to treat your condition

If it was a new problem or was related to a health problem that you already had

Medicines — Many people leave the hospital with a bunch of new prescriptions. Sometimes, they also keep taking medicines that they were taking before. Sometimes, they stop taking medicines that they were taking before.

To help make managing your medicines easier:

When you are still at the hospital, ask for a list of all the medicines that you will need to take when you go home. Ask how your medicines have changed since you got to the hospital and why. It is especially important to ask whether you should take the new medicines along with the old ones, or whether you should take the new medicines instead of the old ones.

If you think that you might have any problems getting your prescriptions filled or paying for your medicines, tell your doctor or nurse at the hospital. There are often ways to deal with these problems, but you need to let the hospital staff know.

All medicines have at least 2 names: a brand name and a generic name. Ask for both the brand and generic names of the medicines that you must take. People sometimes accidentally take the same medicine twice, because they have a bottle with the generic name and a bottle with the brand name, and they think that the bottles contain different medicines when they are really the same. Usually, the brand and generic medicines don't even look the same. The pills are a different shape or color, so it's easy to get confused, which can be dangerous.

When you see your regular doctor after coming home from the hospital, ask them to go over your medicines with you again. It's very important that you understand what you are taking and why. Hopefully, you can use the list of medicines that you got from the hospital. But if you do not have a list, create one with the help of your regular doctor or pharmacist. You can find an example of this kind of list at the following website: www.fda.gov/drugs/resources-you-drugs/my-medicine-record. The list will be useful whenever you need to let doctors or nurses know which medicines you take.

Follow-up visits — After you leave the hospital, it's very important that you have a follow-up visit with a doctor or nurse. You might need to see one of your regular doctors or nurses. Or you might need to see a surgeon or specialist who treated you at the hospital.

While you are still at the hospital, find out who to go to for your follow-up care. Sometimes, the hospital staff will make an appointment for you before you go home. But if that doesn't happen, make an appointment yourself.

When you call to make the appointment, explain that you've just gotten out of the hospital and that you need a follow-up visit right away. Make sure that the doctor or nurse doing your follow-up care knows which hospital you stayed in. That way, they can try to get a copy of your medical records before your appointment.

Warning signs — Most medical conditions that can make you go to the hospital when you weren't expecting it cause certain symptoms before they get really bad. These symptoms or warning signs are sometimes called "red flags." They are your body's way of telling you that something is wrong. If you learn to recognize and pay attention to these warning signs, you might be able to stop these problems before they get too serious.

Ask your doctor or nurse which symptoms might be warning signs. Also ask what you should do if they happen. Depending on the warning sign, you might need to:

Take extra medicine

Call the doctor

Call for an ambulance (in the US and Canada, call 9-1-1)

Contact at the hospital — After you're home from the hospital, it's sometimes hard to easily reach somebody who knows all about your care during your stay. That's why it's a good idea to ask for the contact information of someone at the hospital before you leave. That way, if you have any questions about your time at the hospital, you know whom to ask. This is especially important if you have not gotten all of your test results back by the time you leave the hospital.

Diet and lifestyle changes — Depending on what medical conditions you have, the foods you eat and the way that you live might have a big impact on your health. For example:

If you have heart failure, eating too much salt (sodium) can make you have to go the hospital.

If you had a stroke or a heart attack, quitting smoking greatly lowers the chance that you will have another one.

Some people get high blood sugar when they are in the hospital. This might improve on its own once you are feeling better. But if it does not, you might need to make lifestyle changes.

Before you leave the hospital, make sure that you understand what lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health.

More on this topic

Patient education: Coping with high drug prices (The Basics)
Patient education: Brand versus generic medicines (The Basics)
Patient education: Why taking your medicine as prescribed is important (The Basics)
Patient education: Activity level (The Basics)

Patient education: Coping with high prescription drug prices in the United States (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
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