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Navigating Hospital Admissions

Jun 04, 2024
Learn what to expect during a hospital stay, from registration to resuscitation preferences, to feel more informed and at ease.
Homed-Navigating Hospital Admissions

Hospital admission process

Hospitals are equipped with extensive resources and expert staff, allowing for quick diagnosis and treatment of various medical conditions. However, the hospital environment can often feel intimidating and bewildering, with care sometimes administered rapidly and without much explanation. Knowing what to expect can help patients manage their stay and actively participate in their care. Understanding hospital procedures can reduce feelings of intimidation and enhance confidence regarding health management after discharge.

People are typically admitted to a hospital for severe or potentially life-threatening issues, like heart attacks. However, they might also be admitted for less severe conditions that can’t be treated adequately elsewhere. A physician—whether a primary care doctor, specialist, or emergency department physician—decides if a medical issue warrants hospitalization.

The primary goal of hospitalization is to restore or improve health to the point where the patient can be safely discharged. Hospital stays are designed to be short, facilitating a transition to home care or another healthcare setting for ongoing treatment.

For many, the hospital admission process begins in the emergency department. Understanding when and how to seek emergency care is crucial, and bringing relevant medical information can be extremely helpful.

Registration for Hospital Admission

The first step upon arrival is registration, which may sometimes be completed beforehand. Registration involves providing basic information (name, address), health insurance details, emergency contact numbers, and consents for treatment, information release to insurance companies, and payment agreement. Patients receive an identification bracelet to ensure accurate identification for tests and procedures. This bracelet often includes a unique barcode for scanning before administering medications or treatments to ensure correct patient care.

In the U.S., the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) ensures privacy and controls the disclosure of protected health information.

What to Bring to the Hospital

Patients should bring a list of all medications they are taking, including dosages and any medication allergies. They should also bring any written instructions from their doctor, recent medical summaries, and records of past hospital stays if available. Important documents like advance directives and durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions should also be included.

Personal items such as toiletries, a robe, sleepwear, slippers, eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures, a CPAP machine if used, and a few comforting personal items are recommended. For children, parents should bring comforting objects like a favorite blanket or stuffed toy. It’s important to mark personal items and avoid bringing valuables.

While bringing current prescription medications is generally unnecessary, exceptions include rare or hard-to-obtain medications. These should be given to the hospital pharmacist for inspection and verification.

After Admission

Following admission, patients may undergo blood tests, x-rays, or be taken to their hospital room. Informed consent is required before any invasive tests or treatments. Hospital rooms may be private or semi-private, with limited privacy due to frequent staff visits.

Various tests may be conducted to check for problems and assess the need for additional help post-discharge. An intravenous (IV) line is commonly placed for administering fluids, medications, and nutrients.

Preferences for Resuscitation

Patients are asked about their resuscitation preferences, including measures like CPR, electric shocks, specific medications, and mechanical ventilation. This decision is personal and should be made after discussing with family members and doctors. A decision against resuscitation leads to a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) or do-not-attempt-resuscitation (DNAR) order being placed on the patient’s chart. A plastic bracelet indicates this preference, and a form called Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is provided for records.

Patients can change their resuscitation preferences at any time. It’s important to note that resuscitation efforts are less successful in older adults or those with serious disorders and can sometimes cause complications.

Understanding the hospital admission process can help patients feel more informed, in control, and confident about their care and discharge.

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