story that appeared in the September 15, 2008
New York Times reports that E.R. patients often leave the E.R. confused about how to
care for themselves after they are released. A Michigan study tracked
140 E.R. patients and their comprehension in terms of their diagnosis,
their treatment in the E.R., their instructions for self-care once they
got home from the E.R., and how to determine when and if they should go
back to the E.R. or seek medical treatment. Self-care was the most confusing
for the E.R. patients, with many unclear on which or how much medication
to take, how to take care of wounds, and when to check in with their doctors
or specialists. The problem with such confusion is the safety of the patient
could be jeopardized.
Some of this confusion can be attributed to lack of communication in the
E.R. Doctors and nurses are often so busy that they do not have enough
time to fully treat a patient or to properly explain the medication situation
to a patient. In addition, a patient in the E.R. might be agitated or
frightened or worried, and thus their ability to comprehend medical details
may be impaired.
Several solutions are suggested: the doctor can have the patient repeat
medical instructions back to the doctor, thereby ensuring comprehension;
hospitals can have a doctor and then a nurse explain the situation and
treatment options to the patient, meaning the explanation would reach
the patient twice; and hospitals can contact patients to follow up and
make sure proper medical measures are being taken.
Have you or someone you know been a patient in the E.R.? What was the experience
like, and did you feel you received proper treatment and adequate explanation
regarding the diagnosis and treatment plan?