What can go Wrong after You Leave the Hospital
There are various reasons why you can sue a hospital for complications after discharge.
If you have been to the hospital lately, you might be surprised by how quickly the hospital released you. Cost-savings are the prime motivator of your insurance company and hospital to get patients in and out as quickly as possible. Or maybe you wanted to go home and left earlier than the staff recommended. No doubt, hospitals are not enjoyable places to be. The round-the-clock activity of nurses, technicians, and doctors makes it a difficult place to sleep. Perhaps the food or your inability to eat due to pain or other challenges has caused you to lose weight, along with a week or more of being bed-ridden. All these factors can lead to health complications or accidents when you are discharged from the hospital, weak, recovering, and vulnerable. As such, medical staff must ensure that a patient can go home safely without readmission for complications or new conditions warranting hospital care. Neglecting to do so can be more than costly – it can be fatal.
Discharging a Person Too Soon
Minimally, doctors should know patients can perform daily tasks safely before discharging them from the hospital. For example, they must verify that a patient can get out of or into a bed and make it to the bathroom to urinate or have a bowel movement. They also want to make sure the patient can eat and drink and follow medication and other instructions for their home care. Hospital staff must be sure the patient feels confident about being at home, not fearful of becoming further ill or hurt. Additionally, if patients leave the hospital with a medical condition, doctors must be sure the patient is not developing a new illness and has care at home. Elderly adults living alone are especially in danger if they fall, and so, doctors may prescribe or recommend interim care at rehabilitation or nursing care centers before a patient goes home. Some hospitals even send nurses to visit patients at home post-discharge to monitor how they are doing.
Follow-up is crucial for safe recovery, but also the timing of discharge. Individuals who leave the hospital with unstable vital signs are more likely to return shortly afterward. When they leave the hospital with a varying temperature, blood pressure, heart rate or oxygen level, they could be leaving with a different illness than the one for which they came into the hospital. People are especially at risk of returning to the hospital or dying if they have various vital sign problems. For instance, they could faint from low blood pressure, have a heart attack from irregular respiratory activity or heart rate, and suffer confusion or worse from low oxygen levels. Sadly, patients leaving the hospital with abnormal vitals is not uncommon. To better protect patient health, healthcare workers must ensure that a hospitalized person’s vital signs are stable and they do not show signs of a new illness or further trouble, signaled by fever, vomiting, or other complications before discharge. Most importantly, medical providers must listen to patients who believe they are being discharged too early.
Senior adults are particularly vulnerable to early discharge. Each year, approximately 2.6 million seniors end up returning to the hospital within a month. Additionally, they are commonly the ones who fall ill when exposed to others who are sick. Grandkids visiting grandpa to wish him well can be the source of grandpa’s readmission, when the cold he contracts while his immunity is down, turns into a raging fever. The situations that may prompt readmission to the hospital for elderly adults abound, as the activities of daily living often expose those most vulnerable from an immunity perspective to dangerous bacteria and viruses that may jeopardize their health.
Failing to Explain Medications and Proper Dosage
Another critical assessment must occur at discharge. Although medical staff typically explain discharge instructions in person and in writing, patients cannot always understand or carry out what the doctor tells them. A hospital stay is both physically and emotionally trying, on top of the illness or injury they had going into the hospital. It can be very confusing and unclear what to do when you get home and the discharge instructions do not make sense. For one, a person may not understand the specific instructions and requirements for various medications, especially if they had pharmaceuticals going into the hospital in addition to any others ordered during and after their stay. They may find they have more medications at discharge, some of which are the same but under different brand names. If a person does not understand that, they could be taking twice as much of one medication and end up extremely sick. Hospital administrators must be sure the patient understands their medications, and avoid hazardous medication errors that could lead to adverse reactions, even death.
Neglecting to Discuss Possible Signs of Complications
It is equally important that patients know how to recognize signs of potential complications, and know who to call if they have questions or begin to feel worse at home. Medical professionals can help avoid people having to return to the hospital by ensuring their patients understand what to do. This involves taking the time to discuss and ensure that they answer all of the patient’s questions before discharge. They must also provide patients with telephone numbers and names of whom to call if they have other questions. In some cases, it may be important to send the discharging person home with their lab reports and test results so that they can get quicker care with their primary care doctor in the event of worrisome symptoms or increasing pain. They need to know precisely when to call for medical attention and which signs should prompt a call, beyond the generic discharge instructions to follow-up with your primary care doctor, who may not have an available appointment for weeks.
Inadequately Communicating with Loved Ones, Parents, and Caregivers
If a person is alone at discharge, the best protection for them may be a care meeting before actual discharge. Here, patients and others involved in post-discharge care can be sure they fully comprehend what they should be doing to support optimal recovery. A patient or family member may request such a meeting with those responsible for discharging and following up with care through the medical staff, a patient advocate, or social worker. In this way, the patient is not alone in bearing the burden of understanding and following discharge instructions. This is absolutely critical when the person leaving the hospital is a minor, as babies, children, and adolescents need the help of their parents and caregivers to ensure success after medical treatment, surgery, or another procedure.
At a care meeting, all involved in post-discharge care can ask and answer questions. They can also voice their reasons for delaying discharge orally and in writing to make sure that the patient is heard and has a record if they want to appeal the hospital discharge decision. In addition, they may get help from their insurer or primary doctor, or both. Money-conscious Medicare and other insurers are motivated to penalize those facilities with too many failed discharges, meaning patient readmissions within two days of leaving.
Lack of Proper Care for those Leaving the Hospital after Heart Surgery
If a person has had heart surgery, they are more likely to need to return to the hospital. Unless the discharge and follow-up protocol is patient-centered, heart patients will most likely be back in the hospital within the month. This is true of seniors, as well as all other patients undergoing cardiac surgeries and procedures. As such, doctors and medical staff must warn and fully inform the individuals about how to recuperate carefully by protecting their health. They must likewise follow up with heart patients more thoroughly, ensuring that high-risk conditions do not develop during their recovery.
Get Legal Help Today – Free Consultation
In essence, people leaving the hospital are susceptible to devastating complications and readmission when hospitals, doctors, nurses, and administrators fail them. Hospitals that allow patients to slip through the cracks in busy, negligent, or overly budget-conscious facilities can harm patients irreparably, even causing their premature death. As such, improperly discharged patients and those who experience complications after negligence when leaving the hospital, should understand their rights to recover their damages. Discuss your unique situation or that of a loved one with the medical malpractice attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group. We can fully examine your case and advise you further. Our legal team has vast experience bringing lawsuits against hospitals due to failed discharge or negligent follow-up that harms patients throughout New Jersey. Contact our office at 973-435-4551 for a free consultation with a knowledgeable lawyer who can further assist you.