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Friday, February 25, 2011

Five minutes of education: Physician-patient communication upon hospital discharge

From Dr. Jeffrey Schnipper's research:

A patient was admitted for worsening shortness of breath and weakness. Evaluation showed ischemic heart disease [reduced blood supply to the heart], which was managed medically by changing her blood pressure regimen from metoprolol tartrate (50 milligrams, twice a day) to metoprolol succinate (extended release, 100 milligrams, once a day), lisinopril, and isosorbide mononitrate. She came to her nurse practitioner eight days after discharge for a blood pressure check, complaining that she’d been experiencing three days of scalp tingling [paresthesias] and headache; her blood pressure was markedly higher. On questioning, she reported not taking the long-acting metoprolol prescribed at discharge, because of a misunderstanding. She was brought to the Emergency Department, where she was treated, observed for several hours, and discharged home.

This was due to a discrepancy after discharge; she had stopped her short-acting drug and did not realize she needed to start the longer-acting one.

Such misunderstandings are common, partly because changes in medications are made so frequently. Upon an inpatient’s discharge from the hospital, doctors change 40% of the medications the patient has been taking, on average. “Five minutes of education of the patient and having them ‘teach-back’ what they have learned could eliminate the need for an E.R. visit later,” Dr. Schnipper says.

Advice to patients leaving the hospital:
Ask these three questions:
1.What changes should I make to the meds I’ve been taking?
2. Why are these changes needed?
3. What do I need to watch out for?

To ensure you’ve heard the answers correctly, repeat the answers back to the nurse or doctor.

Thanks to Dr. Schnipper, whose article appeared in the March 13, 2006 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

1 comment:

Aditya Patkar said...

Communication is the most important tool in the Patient-Doctor relationship in improving Patient Safety.