"Can we just stop and talk?" patients value verbal communication about discharge care plans

J Hosp Med. 2012 Jul-Aug;7(6):504-7. doi: 10.1002/jhm.1937. Epub 2012 Mar 23.


Background: Studies show that hospitalized patients often do not understand their postdischarge care plan. There are few studies about patients' preferences regarding the content of discharge care plans.

Objective: To identify what patients view as essential elements of a post-hospitalization plan.

Design: Anonymous written survey distributed on the second day of admission to internal medicine wards.

Setting: An academic tertiary care hospital and an academic county hospital in Seattle, Washington.

Patients: Two hundred English-speaking adult inpatients ≥ 18 years or their proxies.

Results: The majority of patients (64.5%) surveyed wanted verbal discharge instructions, with only 10.5% requesting written instructions (P < 0.0001). One hundred percent of patients valued the following discharge instructions as essential: "when you need to follow-up with [primary care provider] PCP," "warning signs to call PCP," and "medicines to continue post-hospitalization." One hundred percent of patients wanted "a lot of information about my condition" and "test results," but only 39% wanted "a lot of information about my medications" (P < 0.0001). When asked to choose the most important piece of discharge instruction related to their disease, 67.5% of patients chose "lifestyle changes." One hundred percent of patients thought that personal communication between the inpatient provider and the outpatient primary care provider was "extremely important" or "essential."

Conclusion: Patients uniformly placed high value on: 1) verbal communication about discharge care plans; 2) information about lifestyle changes for improved health; and 3) personal communication between inpatient and outpatient providers.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Communication
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge / standards*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Patient Preference / statistics & numerical data*
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Tertiary Care Centers
  • Washington
  • Young Adult