Imagine an anxiety-free patient discharge

By Corey Gaarde and Mike Lawless 

Jane Doe is awaiting her discharge from the hospital. She was supposed to have left by now, but since her nurse last visited over an hour ago, she has heard nothing, and her anxiety builds by the minute. Sound familiar? 

In an era in which people can track everything from their Uber rides to pizza and package deliveries, we should be able to provide patients with the ability to monitor their journey to discharge from a healthcare environment – a critical component of care at inpatient and outpatient facilities. For a patient, discharge can be a confusing and hectic experience at the end of a potentially stressful hospital stay. So, what can we do to improve the process and reduce patient anxiety?   

First, we need to consider the entire discharge process, a complex journey that usually involves several departments and resources, the timing of which is often unknown. This can lead to long waits and rushed instructions for important discharge information, ultimately increasing the existing anxiety of everyone involved. Eventually, the patient goes home – without the safety net of their hospital care team – and family members step in to help. If instructions are misunderstood and care is given incorrectly, the patient may have to be readmitted, which can be extremely costly to an organization’s bottom line.  Above all, however, readmission can be a frustrating, emotional, and stressful experience for the patient and their family.    

Imagine eliminating anxiety-ridden discharges and putting in processes and technology to mitigate readmissions. This concept begins by proactively engaging and monitoring each step of a patient’s journey, communicating the individually tailored, collaborative care process to the patient and their family via the digital front door. Patients can access the digital front door anytime, anywhere – via an app on their mobile device or possibly an in-room tablet/interactive display – so they are constantly informed and prepared for any challenges ahead. In real time from their bed or exam room, they can see who is involved in their care, view their next steps and when each step will occur – including their targeted date/time for discharge.    

Additionally, what if each caregiver on the patient’s care team also has a digital perspective keeping them informed of each step and on schedule? If a step in their care delivery is delayed, the system can alert a patient liaison or nurse to check on the patient, provide additional information and comfort, or even tell a joke while also alerting the broader team to pick up the pace and get back on schedule.    

Finally, once a care experience is complete and all items are in place for discharge, a dedicated bedside care team member can sit with the patient and their family, bring all other parties to a virtual meeting through the in-room device, and record the process. All this information can then be personalized and accessible via the digital front door.  

The good news is that this is all possible. The discharge process is the last experience the patient and their family will have before leaving the healthcare facility; making it a well-coordinated process is a critical step in providing a better outcome at home and a better overall care experience for the patient, family, and care team.    

Beyond making discharges more collaborative and streamlined, improving the process also would greatly alleviate the patient’s anxiety – already at a high level from being in the hospital in the first place. For the discharge process to become less stressful for all involved, the focus first needs to be on the collective experience of the patient, their family, and care team, and then the technology needed to get them home and healthy.