From the Mayo Clinic: Many Discharged Patients Do Not Know Diagnoses, Medications, Side Effects.
The authors report that 72 percent of the patients were not able to list the names of all of their medications, however, more could state the purpose of their medications. And about 58 percent of the patients were unable to recount their diagnosis or diagnoses.
"All methods that enhance the patient’s understanding of his or her discharge treatment plan focus on one central aspect — proper communication," says Dr. Friedman. "Although not all patients are noncompliant because of poor communication, this is probably the leading cause of noncompliance."
Dr. Friedman notes that communication involves many aspects, including language (speaking to the patient in terms the patient understands), practicality (giving the patient a regimen that can be followed without much disruption to daily life) and time (spending reasonable time counseling the patient and ensuring that the patient actually comprehends the instructions).
"Without willingness of the health care team to devote time to communication, the careful and effective treatment that was delivered in the hospital may not continue after discharge because of patient noncompliance," says Dr. Friedman.
I have no doubt this is a universal problem. Patients recently discharged from my hospital who return frequently have their copy of their handwritten discharge instructions. They are variably legible, don’t have a diagnosis written anywhere un them, frequently use the medical abbreviations for medicines (T.I.D., etc), and the patients don’t remember even who their doctor is. There is certainly room for improvement.
The authors go on to recommend some ideas they hope would help, but I doubt the practicality of many of them.