New tool helps hospital patients after discharge

Chatham-Kent Health Alliance is improving their patient’s discharge experience with a new tool designed to help patients better manage their own care after leaving hospital.

Patient Oriented Discharge Summaries (PODS) were co-developed by University Health Network’s OpenLab, patients and healthcare providers.

Hospital officials say PODS were designed for patients and healthcare providers to use together to discuss discharge instructions in an easy to understand way. “PODS highlight five important issues for patients leaving hospital including, medications they need to take; how they might feel and what to do; changes to their routine and resumption of activity; follow-up appointments; and who to contact with questions,” stated hospital officials in a media release.

“Less than 20 percent of hospitals in Ontario have implemented this new and proven tool that helps patients better manage their care after being discharged from the hospital,” says Lisa Northcott, Vice President & Chief Nursing Executive, CKHA. “With more than 8,900 discharges a year from CKHA, PODS have the potential to improve care for many patients and their families and we’re proud to be one of the leaders in this initiative.”

“We understand that leaving the hospital can be a stressful time for patients and their families,” says Lori Marshall, President & CEO, CKHA. “PODS empower patients by giving them the tools they need to play an active role in their own care and are an excellent example of CKHA’s commitment to Patient and Family Centred Care.”

“Hospital discharge plans are usually text-heavy documents filled with technical language written for doctors and other health care providers caring for the patient. A report by the province’s Avoidable Hospitalization Expert Panel found that discharge instructions are often poorly communicated because patients did not understand the medical terms, are not fluent in English, were not able to memorize instructions or are too stressed at the time of discharge to absorb information. Applying best-practices in design and adult-learning, PODS employ plain language, large type, pictures and images to make the information the summary contains as easy to understand as possible. PODS also use a teach-back method, asking patients to recall the instructions in their own words to ensure they have understood. Currently available in English, PODS will also be available in French in the coming months,” stated the media release.

“The information summarized in PODS is information that patients do not have clearly in their minds when they are discharged,” added Jill Chalmers, Patient Advisor, CKHA. “PODS help to provide consistency for staff and patients.  This is really important because if patients are not following their discharge instructions or not taking their medications as required, they end up with complications and back in hospital.”

PODS are being adopted by 26 other hospitals across Ontario with the potential to benefit approximately 50,000 patients in the first year alone.  CKHA first introduced PODS in the Rehab and Stroke Departments in January 2018, and have since implemented PODS in Medicine for Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Pneumonia and Urinary Tract Infections (UTI), as well as Surgery for a number of hip and knee surgeries.  CKHA plans to expand PODS to Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Progressive Care Unit (PCU) in the coming months.

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