Avoid a Round-Trip Ticket Back to the Hospital


You may think because this publication is sponsored by a hospital that our goal is to get you to use our services as much as possible. But that’s not quite true. At Lutheran, we want to help you be healthy, and that means helping you to avoid return trips to the hospital.

One in five older adults makes a repeat visit the month after discharge. According to a Yale University study, the risk of heading back remains elevated for months or even a year afterward. It depends, in part, on the condition that took you there the first time.

Doctors can help reduce these risks by providing targeted follow-up care, the study authors note. But patients have a role to play, too. Watch your health—or your family member’s—closely during the months after a hospital visit. Report any changes or concerns quickly to the health care team.


The Price of Admission

The first days home after hospitalization pose a number of risks. For one thing, you’re still recovering from the illness that required inpatient care to begin with, be it pneumonia or a heart attack.

But that’s not all. Your odds of developing conditions not related to your initial diagnosis also increase. Why? Stress from the hospital experience, changes in medications and exposure to new infections create a dangerous mix. You may develop a new gastrointestinal, respiratory or other type of illness as a result.


Planning Starts Before Discharge

Health care experts are working to reduce these risks in several ways. Some of this starts while you’re still in the hospital. Doctors now try to take better care of your overall health and encourage inpatients to eat well, sleep properly and move more. 

Patients and their families can take an active role in preventing readmissions, too. Keep a checklist for when you check out. Make sure you ask—and write down the answers—to these questions:

  • What should I do to continue getting better?
  • What problems should I watch for? And what should I do if I have them?
  • What medicines do I need, and how do I take them?
  • Will I need a walker or other medical equipment?
  • Do I need to schedule follow-up visits and tests? 

Request written information you can take with you about your diagnosis and treatment plan. And if you and your family need further help coping with the transition, ask if you can speak with a social worker. He or she can speed access to the resources you need for a full recovery.