Tuesday, September 16, 2008

E.R. patients often left confused after visits

For the last two years, I have been with and without health insurance, mostly due to the prohibitive costs of COBRA.

The headline is from a NY Times story this morning.

Here is an excerpt:"A vast majority of emergency room patients are discharged without understanding the treatment they received or how to care for themselves once they get home, researchers say. And that can lead to medication errors and serious complications that can send them right back to the hospital.

In a new study, researchers followed 140 English-speaking patients discharged from emergency departments in two Michigan hospitals and measured their understanding in four areas — their diagnosis, their E.R. treatment, instructions for their at-home care and warning signs of when to return to the hospital.

The study, published online in July by the Annals of Emergency Medicine, found that 78 percent of patients did not understand at least one area and about half did not understand two or more areas. The greatest confusion surrounded home care — instructions about things like medications, rest, wound care and when to have a follow-up visit with a doctor. "

I find this study to be disturbing on many levels. As an individual who speaks 3 languages, English happens to be my first language. I am fairly comfortable conversing with physicians and have long since given up the notion that they are to be revered, treated like deity and have sonme omniprescent power over me. I have become a truly engaged patient, an advocate - then again, I have a chronic illness and have to be.

Imagine that you are on vacation and do not speak the language of the country that you are visiting. I keep hearing of how full our E.R's are of the some 65 million people without health insurance. Is this supposed to make us feel better? If I understand correctly, could it be that even when people speak the language, they are confused about what follow up/after care is needed?

We need to address healthcare options from a comprehensive standpoint in this country or we are doomed to even more failure and massive lawsuits.

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