Background: Patients are vulnerable to issues that emerge after discharge from the hospital, and this susceptibility is compounded as patients attempt to navigate complex healthcare organizations. Post-discharge clinic appointments may provide the opportunity to mitigate risks posed to patients during this vulnerable time.
Objective: Our aim was to determine whether actively engaging patients in scheduling post-discharge appointments before leaving the hospital affects the rate of patients seeing an ambulatory care physician.
Methods: This was a prospective cohort pilot study from May to July 2007 with a historical convenience control from 2003. The setting was an inpatient academic tertiary care referral center in the US. Study participants had been discharged from a general medicine hospitalist service during the study time period. Patients, or their designated caregivers, were contacted in hospital rooms to schedule a post-discharge appointment before discharge. The primary outcome was rate of attendance at post-discharge appointments, determined a priori.
Results: Eighty-three patients with 115 scheduled appointments in the intervention group were compared with 306 patients with 398 appointments in the historical control group. The attendance rate was 59.5% in the control group versus 78.3% in the study group (p < 0.0001). Patients received 1.3 discharge appointments per discharge in both the historical and study group. In a limited evaluation, the study group had a trend towards a lower return rate to the emergency department within 3 days of discharge (1.2% vs 3.8%, nonsignificant), and a lower readmission rate within 14 days of discharge (10.8% vs 11.8%, nonsignificant).
Conclusion: Our patient-centered process for helping patients arrange their post-discharge appointments before discharge improved the attendance rate at those appointments.