Patient education is key to shorter lengths of stay

Hospital keeps patients informed

At Griffin Hospital, patients sometimes point out to the staff that they were scheduled for a test but didn’t have it. Some comb their patient record and suggest changes.

It’s part of the hospital’s philosophy that informed patients are happier patients who get well sooner and are discharged earlier.

Educating the patient is the key to shorter lengths of stay, says Bill Powanda, vice president of the Derby, CT, hospital. "Nobody wants to stay in the hospital any longer than they have to. The issue for the hospital is coordination of care, and when the patients are involved, they do things to facilitate getting better and getting home sooner," he adds.

When they are admitted, patients receive a patient pathway that projects the length of stay, includes information on tests and procedures they should have each day, and helps the patients understand what will happen to them.

"The patient and family become traffic cops. If they have a test scheduled and they don’t have it, they’re quick to ask the nurse or physician why. It has contributed significantly to reducing the length of stay," Powanda says.

Within 48 hours of admission, patients attend a formal care conference with the primary care nurse, physician, and clinical staff. The conference covers their diagnosis, tests, and other procedures, expected outcomes, and the discharge planning process. They learn what is likely to happen during their stay and discuss post-hospital care requirements, such as an extended care facility or a personal care home. "If you educate the patients and involve the patients, they will be compliant. The patient and family members are involved in the patient care and are educated about the disease and the treatment and what will happen after discharge," he says.

The hospital gives patients easy access to their medical record and encourages them to read it.

About half of the patients look at the medical records, while 10% to 15% examine it closely, Powanda says. "The Planetree concept is about patient choices. We let the patients choose how much or how little they want to be involved in their own care," he says.