A fellow medical negligence attorney from outside Ohio recently introduced me to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHQR) Patient Safety Primers. These analytical pieces deal with a variety of healthcare topics. The first one that I read, “Adverse Events After Hospital Discharge,” contains some interesting information that I would like to share.

The primer cites a study that reports that 15% of hospitalized patients experience preventable adverse events within 3 weeks of discharge.  The medical errors at discharge include adverse drug events, prescription errors, hospital-acquired infections, procedural complications and incomplete or inaccurate discharge instructions. In addition, it was reported that about “40% of patients are discharged with test results pending, and a comparable proportion are discharged with a plan to complete the diagnostic workup as an outpatient, placing patients at risk unless timely and complete follow-up is ensured.” Because of these transitional issues, about 20% of Medicare patients are re-hospitalized within 30 days of discharge.

Communication and Hospital Discharge

Many medical mistakes can be traced to an error in communication. The time when a patient is discharged from the hospital is prime time for a communication error. Oftentimes, the responsibility for discharge is handled by a nurse or physician assistant who does not have primary responsibility for the patient. Sometimes, discharge occurs before the patient is seen by the admitting physician or an important consultant who is actually responsible for the patient. Many of these transitional mistakes can be avoided by hospital policies and procedures that designate who can discharge the patient, and the steps needed to discharge the patient, such as medication reconciliation and a discharge assessment.

As an Ohio medical attorney handling catastrophic medical negligence across Ohio, the statistics regarding medical negligence at the time of discharge are not surprising to me. Further, these statistics are not likely to change soon as hospitals and doctors continue to make money despite an epidemic of medical mistakes. For now, the best that we can do is hold negligent doctors and hospitals fully responsible and accountable when errors occur by fully compensating those injured or killed by error.

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