Discharge planning refers to the process of determining what care is needed after a patient leaves the hospital. The process should result in specific recommendations including what events or symptoms would require the patient to seek follow-up care or visit the emergency department (ED).

The goal of discharge planning is to optimize a patient’s recovery from the hospital, coordinate future care and follow up appointments, decrease possible adverse events and reduce readmissions. A proper discharge plan is communicated both written and verbally. This helps patients understand the principle diagnosis and treatment received during hospitalization, his or her responsibilities after discharge, defines a follow-up plan and what symptoms or occurrences should prompt the individual to return to the hospital.

At minimum, elements in a patient discharge summary should include:

  • Reason for hospitalization with specific principle diagnosis
  • Discussion of hospitalization
  • Patient’s condition at discharge
  • Comprehensive and reconciled medication list or documentation noting the patient was provided a full reconciled medication list