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Many patients are discharged from the emergency room with an incomplete understanding of the information needed to safely care for themselves at home. Most patients discharged from the emergency department receive preprinted instructions, but these can come in a variety of forms. Some instructions are hand written or preformulated, and many are created with software. In some cases, the patient is only given an information sheet that is specific to a particular illness, but not tailored to the individual patient.
Effective communication between the physician and patient is the cornerstone of good medical care. It is important not only that the patient receive both written and verbal instructions upon discharge from the emergency room, but also that the instructions are understood, including the diagnosis, treatment, and follow up plans. In many cases, the patients do not understand the discharge instructions because they are confusing, or obviously do not apply and can leave a patient unsure of what to do next. When patients are discharged in the middle of the night, sometimes following a stressful and lengthy ER visit, they should ask for handwritten instructions or a clarification that applies to their specific issues, not just every patient with some of their symptoms. This will force the discharge person, physician, or nurse to focus the instructions to their specific symptoms.
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