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After ER visit, many patients in a fog, U-M study finds
Date:7/16/2008

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Every year, more than 115 million patients enter emergency rooms at hospitals around the nation. And more than three-quarters of them leave with an impression of what happened or what should happen next that doesn't match what their emergency care team would want.

That's the finding of a new study led by University of Michigan Health System researchers, and published early online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The results suggest that emergency room teams need to do a better job of making sure patients go home with clear information and instructions and that patients and their loved ones shouldn't leave until they fully comprehend their situation.

The researchers carried out detailed interviews with 140 English-speaking patients who visited one of two emergency departments, and were released to go home. They compared those interviews with the patients' medical records, and found a serious mismatch between what doctors and nurses found or advised, and what patients comprehended.

What's worse, patients were pretty sure of what they "knew" 80 percent of the time even if what they knew wasn't quite right.

"It is critical that emergency patients understand their diagnosis, their care, and perhaps most important, their discharge instructions," says lead author Kirsten Engel, M.D., a former U-M emergency medicine fellow and Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar who is now at Northwestern University. "It is disturbing that so many patients do not understand their post-emergency department care, and that they do not even recognize where the gaps in understanding are. Patients who fail to follow discharge instructions may have a greater likelihood of complications after leaving the emergency department."

The study's senior author agrees. "As a physician, I would like to think I could look someone in the eye and ask: 'Do you have any questions?,' and those who were confused or overwhelmed
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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