June 2008
Leaving the Hospital? Don't Go Home Without Important Information
Emergency Medicine; Nursing


More than 800 reports have been submitted to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority that show problems occurred as patients were discharged that could have resulted in patient harm. About 30 % of the patients did not receive written or verbal instructions before leaving the facility. Some patients received the wrong drug or wrong instructions for taking a drug while at home. The Emergency Department was the care area where about 300 reports identified a problem occurring. In about 500 others the problems occurred with patients who were in the hospital for any length of time and about to go home. The causes given for the problems include: patients who left without written instructions (mostly from the ED), patients who did not receive complete instructions, or patients who received another patient’s instructions because of a mistake in the discharge process.

What You Should Know Before Leaving the Hospital

  • Be sure your healthcare provider tells you and/or a family member everything about your diagnosis/disease. You should not leave the facility with any questions regarding your health.
  • Get any available reading materials about your procedure or disease-specific educational materials.
  • Tell your healthcare provider the names of your current medications.
  • Make sure you understand how to take your new drug, how often to take the new drug and what you can expect as far as the drug action and side effects.
  • Have your healthcare provider give you written materials about your medications so you can refer to the instructions at home.
  • Your healthcare provider should give you written instructions telling you when you can return to your normal activities and normal diet.
  • Know about any problems that may develop at home (for example: a bad reaction to your medication). You should know when to call your physician if any problems develop and when to dial 911.
  • Repeat your discharge instructions back to your healthcare provider to make sure that you understand the instructions.
  • Before you leave the hospital make sure that all intravenous lines or access ports that you do not need for other medications are removed by your healthcare provider.
Test Results and Services:
  • Your healthcare provider should tell you when you can expect your test results and whom you should call for those test results.
  • Your healthcare provider should schedule any follow-up appointments with physicians/specialists as needed.
  • Your healthcare provider should give you referrals for services that have been ordered by your physician (for example, physical therapy, occupational therapy).
Questions to Ask
  • Make sure you ask your healthcare provider any questions you have about your procedure or disease, follow-up care, medications, follow-up test results and potential problems that may not happen until after you leave the hospital.

For more information on discharge instructions go to the June 2008 Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory article “Care at Discharge—A Critical Juncture for Transition to Posthospital Care” or click here

©2018 Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority