Are you prepared to discharge your patients?

In the marketing world we like to talk about how first impressions are key to building relationships with clients. But when it comes to patient satisfaction, last impressions are just as important.

In healthcare, the discharge process is often one of the last experiences a patient and his or her family has with a hospital. Is your facility making their last experience a great one?

It seems that patients universally have it in their minds that when they hear news of their discharge, it means they will be going home in 20 or 30 minutes. As you know, the discharge process may take an hour, two hours, or in some cases half a day or longer.

So what can you do to help make the discharge process a good experience for your patients?

Setting and maintaining expectations

It is important that patients and their families know what to expect when the time comes for discharge. Explaining the process early on can help avoid frustration among patients and their families since they know that discharge doesn’t happen instantly. Talking to them in advance of the date of discharge can also allow time to plan for transportation and help make sure there are fewer surprises.

Knowing what is realistic

A hospital I recently worked with studied their process of discharging patients to nursing homes and found that the time required ranged from eight to 14 hours. This provided an opportunity to take the documentation to nursing home administrators to work toward new solutions.

Having a realistic timeframe and knowing the limitations of your facility as well as others in the process can help you make things run more smoothly and concentrate on other tasks involved in discharging a patient.

Getting things done in advance

Paperwork inevitably piles up during a patient’s stay in a healthcare facility. Some of those documents can be completed or at least started before the discharge process even begins.

Delegating the workload and keeping a schedule of tasks can be a huge help for your team when it comes to getting paperwork done in advance of the discharge. Getting a head start also allows your team to identify gaps or missing information in a patient’s documents and get them sorted out before they delay the discharge process.

Managing outside factors

Whenever an outside vendor is involved, the hospital loses some control. That’s why working with them in advance can really make a difference. Anticipating the needs and challenges of working with outside equipment vendors and nursing homes can help your team get the process going in advance so that getting medical supplies such as oxygen as well as confirmation from other facilities better coincides with a patient’s expected discharge time.

The discharge process can run into all kinds of roadblocks and delays, which is why it is crucial to go about it in an organized and deliberate manner. Building on experience and streamlining the process can go a long way in improving the financial health of your health care facility. Not only that, but making the process easy and understandable will leave patients and their families less frustrated and more confident in their decision to choose your care. Not to mention when the HCAHPS survey comes around. 🙂