It turns out, a whopping 78 percent of patients don’t fully understand the care and discharge instructions they receive in the emergency department — and the vast majority of them are not even aware that they do not understand what doctors have told them, according to a study published this month in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
“The bottom line is that we need better strategies for identifying patients who are having difficulty understanding their care and instructions in the emergency department,” said Kirsten Engel of Northwestern University in Chicago who authored the study. “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.”
Whose job is it to make sure emergency room patients understand the take-home instructions doctors give them? Should the onus be on the patient or his health care team? Or both?