Magazine article Drug Topics

How to Work Effectively with Discharge Planners

Magazine article Drug Topics

How to Work Effectively with Discharge Planners

Article excerpt

How to work effectively with discharge planners

With more pharmacies opening their doors to home health care and with more patients being referred to their community pharmacy when they leave the hospital, pharmacists may find themselves conversing on a more regular basis with hospital discharge planners.

Speaking at a workshop held during NARD's recent annual meeting in Nashville, John C. Simmons, director-department of Social Work, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, and supervisor of the hospital's discharge planners, told community pharmacists what to expect from discharge planners. He also offered suggestions on how the two health-care professionals can best work together for optimum results.

What's my line? What is discharge planning anyhow? "Discharge planning is a systematic, coordinated program designed to bring about a timely discharge of a patient from a hospital to the next appropriate level of care or return to the patient's normal living situation," Simmons told the workshop. The discharge planner is usually either a social worker or a nurse. Discharge planners are employed by the hospital.

As part of a discharge plan, the discharge planner will deal with the practical -- and the psychosocial -- problems that come into play when a patient is released from a hospital. For example, a person who lives in a second floor apartment and needs a wheelchair will have some practical, as well as psychological, factors to deal with, especially if he or she is handicapped for the first time, said Simmons.

"But discharge planning should begin before a patient even enters the hospital. This is where the community pharmacist enters the picture." said Simmons. The R.Ph. can tell the discharge planner what the patient's at-home situation is. The pharmacy professional can alert the planner as to whether there is a responsible person at the patient's home to assist the patient. He or she can also advise the discharge planner if this patient follows instructions, and, in some instances, can even read. All these factors are important to the discharge planner since he often starts arranging for the patient's release from the hospital even before a patient enters the hospital.

The community pharmacist is also the person who can help to relieve a patient's fears and anxieties once he's out of the hospital, Simmons feels. The majority of patients are a little apprehensive about their continuing care once they're discharged. If the patient has any questions about the specific home care that has been recommended, he should be encouraged to call his discharge planner, or the community pharmacist can call the discharge planner for him, said Simmons.

How else can the community pharmacists and the discharge planner work together? One important service community pharmacists can perform is to alert their patients to the fact that the discharge planner is there for them. "We're struggling to let people know we're there. People misunderstand us," said Simmons. "They often think we're social workers who deal only with welfare patients. They need to understand that everyone needs a discharge planner."

Planners' Day: He added that the pharmacist is the one who can help give the discharge planner some well-needed recognition. He suggested that a day be set aside annually in the pharmacy to honor discharge planners.

Another important area where the pharmacist can work with the discharge planner is, of course, by providing services, such as home health care, to the patient. …

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