Image: Graphic of discharge planning with patient education and discharge instructions as the foundation.
First, let's address discharge terms. Through conversations on discharge, you've probably heard the following terms: Discharge planning, discharge process, discharge instructions, discharge teaching, discharge order, discharge, and discharge followup. This diagram clarifies what is meant by each term. Consider the main white horizontal line, which represents the patient's length of stay in the acute care setting. At the far left, the patient is admitted and soon thereafter a history and physical is completed and a treatment plan is initiated. At this point, patient teaching should begin. That is, staff should begin to talk with the patient about his or her condition, inpatient treatment plans, and perhaps even medications that are likely to be long term. At some point, noted mid-slide, a discharge order is written. At that point, or even perhaps as the discharge order is believed to be imminent, patient teaching becomes discharge teaching. That is, staff provide instructions to the patient about how to care for himself or herself at home. Also at this point, the process for actually discharging the patient from the hospital begins. This means finalizing all post-discharge services, arranging the patient's transportation or ride home, and completing paperwork. The discharge event represents the patient's departure from the hospital. Finally, still part of a comprehensive discharge program, follow-up contact with the patient occurs to assess his or her status at home.