Web site spotlight: Outsourcing discharge follow-up calls keeps nurses at the bedside

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, November 6, 2009

In the wake of the country's nurse shortage, many nurses are wearing more than one hat during the workday, often taking their attention away from caring for patients at the bedside. One activity stealing this time is the responsibility to place calls to patients who have been discharged and need follow-up clarification on discharge instructions and prescribed medication. Nurses struggle to find time for this task while attending to their current patients.

These calls clearly have their place. The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently cited that 20% of patients have a "complication or adverse event" after leaving a hospital. Many avoidable errors are due to patients misunderstanding post-discharge instructions such as cleaning a surgical site or taking prescriptions in correct doses. Follow-up phone calls educate patients and can help prevent further complications. However, these calls can be time consuming for busy nurses.

Considering there is an average of 120 million ED discharges annually in the United States, let's assume healthcare organizations conduct follow-up calls with 40% of that population with an average call taking five minutes. This translates into at least 150 million minutes, or 104,166 days, on the phone reviewing post-discharge instructions-and that's for ED patients alone.



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