How to Plan for and What to Expect During your Hospital Stay

Hospital Admission: How to Plan for and What to Expect During your Hospital Stay

When you or a relative is admitted to a hospital as either an elective admission (planned) or one that is the result of an emergency treatment, it is a very stressful time for the healthcare consumer. The healthcare consumer is bombarded with medical forms, medical staff, medical terms, insurance questions, financial questions, payment questions and it goes on and on and on.

The following will help the healthcare consumer navigate the process when you are admitted to a hospital.  To make the journey easier to understand, and navigate, the guide will be divided into two sections;  Planned Admission and Emergency Admission.  The two will overlap at a point in the hospital.


Planned Admission

A planned admission is defined as a medical service that is scheduled for a specific day and time. The medical need is non emergent.

The following is a guide or check list for the consumer to follow before being admitted to the hospital.

  1. Review Doctor/Hospital Ratings in your Service Area

There are many web sites available for the healthcare consumer to access to find out the ratings.  Several examples are; Consumer Reports Doctor/Hospital Ratings, Health Grades, Medicare Hospital Compare,  etc..  Also, your state medical licensing authority and medical society may have valuable information. Infection rates, in hospitals, is one of the most important indicators to review.

  1. In Network versus Out of Network Healthcare Providers

Many healthcare providers will not be in the consumers insurance company network. To avoid any surprises, make sure all providers are in your network.  If you are having surgery, make sure the anesthesiologist, consultants and radiologists are in network.  If not, the consumers out of pocket costs will be higher.

  1. Insurance Verification/Precertification

Many healthcare providers verify the consumers health insurance prior to being admitted to the hospital.  This insures all the information is correct and determines how much the consumer will owe.  In addition, some insurance companies require a precertification of the admission.  This means they are authorizing the treatment, not guaranteeing payment.

  1. Healthcare Provider Discussion

Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider prior to the admission to discuss all pre and post admission requirements.  Medications before and after a hospital admission are very important to understand.   Follow up visits, tests and other information should be discussed.


  1. Pre-Admission Testing

The medical service you are receiving may require preadmission testing at the medical service location.  Find out when and where.

  1. Your Doctor at the Hospital

Ask your doctor if he/she will be at the hospital or will a hospitalist manage your care in the hospital.

  1. Pre-Admission Packet

Ask your doctor if the hospital has a pre admission packet that explains all hospital rules, etc…

  1. Schedule the Procedure on a Well-Staffed Day

Usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are best.

  1. Find out Your Out of Pocket Cost

When scheduling your medical service the medical service location should know how much you will owe.  Make appropriate arrangements at that time.

10.  Make a Medication List

Review with your doctor all medications and over the counter drugs you take.  Bring a copy of list to the hospital when you are admitted.

11.Assign a Helper

Ask a friend or relative to help monitor and manage your care while admitted to the hospital.  The helper can ask questions, make sure you are receiving the level of attention you need and monitor the consumer wellbeing.  Additionally, the helper can record medical decisions and secure key medical records if appropriate.

11.  Prepare a Living Will, Choose a Healthcare Proxy and Advance Directives

These documents should be completed well before the consumer is admitted to a hospital.  Health Proxy and advance Directives can be completed at the hospital when admitted.

12.  Don’t Bring Valuables to the Hospital, but Bring the following

Bing eye glasses, dentures, hearing aids, robes, slippers, and a night gown.  Don’t Bring medications, electric razors, hair dryers or medical equipment.

When You come to the Hospital to be Admitted

Once all scheduling, pre admission testing and discussions with appropriate providers have been completed, it is time to be admitted to the hospital. The following is guide to follow when you arrive at the hospital.

  1. Bring Your Insurance Card, a Credit Card and Proper Identification

If you bring the above with you to the hospital when you are admitted. It will reduce the chances for billing and identification errors.  If a financial obligation is due, you can pay it immediately if you want to.

  2.  Bring Your Important Health Records

Your Personal Health Record is generally maintained by your Physicians.  They can be accessed through the a health portal at each office

     3.   Bring your Drug List

The list will help the medical professionals treating you and reduce the chances of drug errors.

      4. Introduce your Helper

Introduce your helper to the medical professional treating you  immediately.  This will send them a message that you are making sure you are receiving the proper care.

      5. Ask about a Patient Advocate

A hospital Patient Advocate is the go between you and medical professionals.  They are empowered to make sure if you have any complaints, they are addressed and remedied.

      6. Find out Who is in Charge

Each hospital medical unit has a manager.  Find out the managers name.  Also, ask if Residents, Interns and Medical Students will be visiting. Finally, ask what doctor is in charge of your care.

      7.  Check Your Wrist Band

Look for misspellings and wrong information.  Hospital staff should check the wrist band with treatment given.

 8.   Start Planning For Your Discharge

Most insurance companies for rules and regulations covering rehabilitation, Home Care and Hospice services.  Start to educate yourself and coordinate with hospital staff.  They are very knowledgeable.


If you are Admitted to the Hospital as an Emergency

This can be a very stressful time for the healthcare consumer or family member.  The focus is on the well being of the patient.  Once the consumer or family member is stable and in a bed, the person responsible can now focus on the monitoring and managing the care of the patient.

During Your Hospital Stay

As a patient in a hospital or the helper monitoring and managing the patients care, you will be exposed to a variety of different healthcare professionals.   First, the consumer needs to know who they will be treating them in the hospital.  Secondly,  knowing what to do when you are in the hospital as a patient and lastly, common sense guidance.  The following is a list of doctors and non-doctor healthcare professionals.


Attending Doctor

A doctor who is in charge of your care.


A doctor who manages care while in the hospital.  Does not see patients outside the hospital.  The hospitalist will act as your Primary Care doctor.


A medical school graduate with two or three yeas experience.  A resident is trained in a special medical field.


A new doctor working under the guidance of residents and the attending doctor.

Consultant or Specialist

A doctor that is requested by the attending doctor to help diagnosis or treat the patient.


Registered Nurses

Helps manage your medical care by giving medicines, taking vital signs, etc…The best person to ask if you have any questions about your care or condition.

Nurse’s aide

Helps the Registered Nurse with less technical duties.  Changes bedding, give baths, etc…are several duties nurse’s aides perform.

Medical Technologists

These technicians take blood, give x-rays and perform other medical services.


 Perform additional medical services such as Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, etc…


 Specially trained clergy to provide pastoral care to patients.

Social Worker

 Helps patients and their families with discharge planning.

Patient Advocate

This person resolves problems or complaints from patients and medical professionals.

Financial Counselor

Answers all questions pertaining to insurance, billing and out of pocket costs.


As a Patient in the Hospital

As a patient in the hospital, the healthcare consumer is in a situation he or she is unfamiliar with and can be very intimidating.  Most consumers never plan to be admitted to the hospital.  The following is check list/guide for the consumer to follow.

  1. Doctor Rounds/Visits

Many doctors will visit the consumer on any given day.  The admitting doctor, the hospitalist, the surgeon and specialty doctor are the main team.  Residents, Interns and Medical Students may also visit.  This last group of “Doctors” are in training.  You as a patient can refuse to have them examine you.  Lastly, ask your doctors when they are going to arrive.  They may give you a window of time to plan.

  1. Take notes during doctor rounds/visits

Always a good idea to take notes since the consumer is in a very stressful situation and may forget the information can be overwhelming.

  1. Have your helper available during rounds/visits

Your helper can be very important if the consumer has a serious disorder and cannot communicate.

  1. Registered Nurses and Aides

Registered Nurses can be a great source of information regarding you medical condition.  They can also explain these situation in common language.  Registered Nurses treat the consumer 24/7.

  1. Write down questions you need to ask

The consumer and their helper should discuss the medical situation and write down questions to ask.  Better than forgetting.

  1. Monitor your Medications

Medication errors can occur more often than you think.  So before taking any drug ask what it is and will it have any side effects.

  1. Guard Against Infections

Infections can occur from also anything.  Dirty hands are a source.  Insist on your care givers to wash their hands before they examine you.

  1. Watch for Unnecessary Tests

Ask why you are receiving a test.

  1. Stay Alert

If you sense something is not right it probably is.  Use common sense.


When you Leave the Hospital

  1. See a Discharge Planner

Discharge planning is very important.  It will help you and your helper to plan your recovery at home.

  1. Make sure you are medically able to leave the hospital

Hospitals and insurance companies will try to discharge you quickly because they have financial incentives.  If you feel unsure, say so.  Make sure you are healthy enough to go home.

  1. Get a discharge summary

Ask for a clear written statement of what you need to do when you go home. The more detail the better.

  1. Get a discharge list of medications

Ask about the medications you started in the hospital and should you continue with them at home.  Make sure you coordinate you existing medications with any additional medications.  If you had anesthesia in the hospital, ask about any lingering effects.

  1. Get late test results

Make sure your doctor has the latest test results especially those within 24 hours of your discharge.

  1. Schedule a follow up appointment with your doctor

Make sure you schedule a follow up visit with your doctor.  It should be about a week or to post discharge.


Common Sense Guidance….Summary

  1. Ask a lot of questions. Do not be intimidated by any of the medical staff.
  2. Refuse to have Medical Students, Interns or Residents examine or treat you. It is your option.
  3. Keep a log of all conversations with doctors, medical staff or technicians. Document all medical events.
  4. Do not leave the hospital against medical advice. It is not safe  It is not illegal or criminal.
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