Malpractice News

September 4, 2013

Patients leaving hospitals without proper information, study finds

Have you ever listened with glazed eyes to a doctor’s explanation? He’s trying to tell you precisely what your diagnosis is but his technical terms and scientific references just get you more confused. If you have felt like this, you’re not alone. A new study has found that “older patients may think they understand everything doctors tell them . . . but [researchers] found several gaps in what they remember and areas where instructions could be clearer.”

Patients can’t identify diagnosis

The study surveyed almost 400 patients after being discharged from the hospital and found that 96 percent thought they understood why they’d been in the hospital. Just 60 percent, however, correctly identified their diagnosis.

Better information leads to less readmissions

Dr. Leora Horwitz, professor at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut and the study’s lead author said, “Patients were very positive, but when we asked them about actual facts, they could not tell us.” This is worrisome because people who don’t understand their diagnosis are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital at a later date. They might not understand the severity of their disorder or misunderstand the best way to treat it, thus leading to more complications and higher medical costs. Economists say that if this problem is remedied, it will help the country reduce its overall spending on health care.

Older patients are more likely to be on Medicare, and current estimate show that, “hospital readmissions increase spending by an estimated $26 billion per year. . . . About $17 billion of that is thought to be potentially preventable.

Doctors prone to using jargon

In the study, 395 patients age 65 and older were interviewed about their experience with the doctor. The researchers were concerned with how effective hospital discharge procedures are. Most of the time, doctors were careful to explain in layman’s terms, but about a quarter of the patients’ instructions contained medical jargon. Instead of saying “heart attack,” for instance, a doctor would say “myocardial infarction.”

Researchers support creation of spcial teams

To remedy this problem, Dr. Karin Rhodes, director of the Center for Emergency Care Policiy and Research at the University of Pennsylania’s School of Medicine, suggested medical centers create teams who would specifically handle discharges.


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