Patient Discharge Initiative tackles healthcare gap

What happens when a patient leaves the ER? After discharge, there is a range of follow-up documents, instructions and tasks that need to be completed to ensure the proper medications are ordered, insurance is notified and any specialist appointments are made. Unfortunately, this step in the healthcare chain is overlooked and often, no one visits or follows up with the patient to make sure these things happen.

To help alleviate this resource and communication gap, Baylor College of Medicine has partnered with Rice University to launch the Patient Discharge Initiative.

“In the emergency department, many patients get overwhelmed and may not be immediately thinking about what will need to be done down the road or even the next day. The Patient Discharge Initiative is made up of Rice University student volunteers who are interested in helping to care for the underserved, who work alongside Baylor College of Medicine residents and emergency department faculty to fill in some of these gaps in follow up care,” said Dr. Thiago Halmer, associate professor of emergency medicine at Baylor and faculty mentor to the initiative.

The Patient Discharge Initiative not only helps alleviate a gap in patient care communication, but also provides students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience interacting with patients in a hospital setting.

“Members of the Patient Discharge Initiative identified an opportunity to provide essential education and social resources to patients discharged from an emergency center. The net effect of these efforts is better-informed patients with increased adherence to medication regimens and scheduled follow-up appointments,” said Dr. Pablo Tovar, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor and initiative mentor.

Currently, the Patient Discharge Initiative has roughly 60 participants, and members hope to see that number continue to grow.

“The Patient Discharge Initiative is a unique opportunity to provide a service that is highly valuable to patients and helps alleviate time stresses in emergency departments. It’s very rewarding to see the relief many patients feel when someone takes the time to sit down with them and explain follow-up steps,” said Anthony Wang, a student at Rice University and co-president of the initiative.

“The initiative is a very rewarding experience and helps fulfill a real need in our community,” added Caroline Lee, Rice University student and co-president of the initiative.

To better understand and quantify how the program is impacting patients, a subgroup of the students has launched a project, led and counseled by Dr. Michael Jaung, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor, to design and implement research and quality improvement metrics to strengthen the organization’s impact and to connect these students to other research and policy experts in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Baylor.

“The Initiative as it functions now serves Ben Taub Hospital, and we hope to expand to other hospitals in the area as we gain members. This is such a simple service that has incredible impact on our patient population,” Halmer added.