What patients need to know

A team looking at ways to enhance staff-patient communication at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston developed a list of 19 things that patients need to know when they are admitted to the hospital:

1. What to expect during the hospital stay and what to do if they don’t get it — if, for example, they were supposed to get a vegetarian meal and get a meat meal instead, or if they asked for a phone and it’s broken or not there.

2. Their diagnosis/illness, including expected outcomes, length of stay, and treatment plan.

3. Post-stay education.

4. Financial information, including insurance copayments, reimbursements, and their responsibility for any portion not covered by insurance.

5. Whom to contact for answers to questions and problems.

6. Hospital policies for each patient unit.

7. Roles and responsibilities of physicians, nurses, social workers, etc.

8. Information for the family about services regarding valuables, check cashing, ministry, parking, security, and mail.

9. Hospital policies regarding financial aspects of outpatient care, including use of signs alerting them to copayment requirements or an administrative fee.

10. How their care after discharge can be continued within their community, such as through dialysis services closer to home.

11. How to control the flow of visitors and phone calls.

12. Their right to refuse treatment.

13. Costs associated with tests not covered by insurance and their right to refuse those tests. For example, if the doctor orders seven tests, and only five are covered by insurance, it’s the hospital’s responsibility to let the patient know he or she can refuse those tests.

14. Their responsibility regarding diagnosis/ treatment; that is, patients must participate in their own treatment, as in following directions for wound care.

15. Foreign language and hearing-impaired services are available.

16. What to do if their rights are violated.

17. When and where follow-up appointments are scheduled.

18. Explanation about delays in getting to a bed, having an MRI, or being taken to surgery.

19. Refusal rights regarding choice of physicians, and on what basis these choices can be made.