Toward Safer Transitions: How Can We Reduce Post-Discharge Adverse Events?

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Toward Safer Transitions: How Can We Reduce Post-Discharge Adverse Events?

Healthc Q. 2012 Apr;15(SP):63-67

Authors: Dhalla IA, O'Brien T, Ko F, Laupacis A


Ranjit Kaur is an 83-year-old woman who is brought to the hospital by her son because of worsening shortness of breath over the previous week. The emergency room physician correctly diagnoses a heart failure exacerbation (Wang et al. 2005), initiates appropriate treatment (Felker et al. 2011) and consults the hospitalist physician for admission and ongoing care (Wachter 2004).The hospitalist learns that the patient has been prescribed the various medications recommended by clinical practice guidelines and that her adherence to this medication regimen is excellent. No specific trigger for the heart failure exacerbation is found, and the hospitalist concludes that the most likely explanation is a gradual decline in cardiovascular function, perhaps combined with excessive sodium intake. The day after admission, a dietitian meets with the patient and her daughter-in-law to discuss how her diet could be modified to reduce her sodium intake. Three days after admission, Ms. Kaur is "back to baseline" and ready for discharge. The hospitalist discharges her on a slightly higher dose of her diuretic and instructs Ms. Kaur to see her family physician within a week of discharge. She is sent home with a discharge summary in hand that clearly explains the care provided in hospital and the follow-up plan. In other words, the emergency department and in-patient care are "textbook." The admission is brief and efficient, there are no complications and Ms. Kaur's symptoms are substantially improved. Nevertheless, three weeks after discharge, Ms. Kaur is brought back to the emergency department because of confusion. Her blood work in the emergency department shows a dangerously low sodium level. This adverse event may occur after a change in diuretic dose, and can be prevented or managed with careful follow-up after discharge.

PMID: 22874449 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

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