Failure to Provide Follow-up Care and Instructions after Discharge: The Damage It Can Cause & Your Legal Rights

Although many forms of negligence in healthcare are obvious—such as operating on the wrong patient or dispensing a lethal dose of medication—some are harder to detect. Yet the consequences could be just as serious. An example is when a doctor fails to provide adequate follow-up care or instructions after the patient is discharged from the hospital.

What is negligent follow-up care of a patient?

Although treatment might have been received in a hospital or another medical facility, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the standard of care owed to a patient has ended.

The healthcare provider could be liable if there was a failure to perform these duties and it resulted in harm: 

  • following through on aftercare instructions;
  • monitoring the patient’s recovery; and/or
  • additional treatment that may be required later.

In the state of New York, it’s a requirement that discharge plans start when the patient has been admitted, even when seen in the emergency department. Another important component is notifying the patient of his/her rights to participate in the process and providing a copy of the written discharge plan.

One could potentially hold a physician liable for injuries or illness when a discharge plan is not fully created and followed.

Heart patients, for example. Because it’s a chronic condition, treatment and care may continue even after leaving the hospital. The discharge plan may include information pertaining to follow-up appointments, diet restrictions, what to do when symptoms worsen and more. If there was a failure to provide these important instructions, the doctor could be liable for harm.

A busy doctor may not take into consideration the possibility that a patient may not understand the instructions This could fall under the umbrella of negligent follow-up care. For instance, someone whose first language isn’t English may have difficulty understanding instructions. By not ensuring the patient adequately understands the doctor could be breaching the duty to care for the patient.

What are some of the consequences of not providing follow-up care and instructions after discharge?

Proper follow-up care is important for a number of reasons. One of the biggest is that it may prevent readmission.

Readmission tends to be common with certain health problems such as: 

  • heart failure;
  • heart attack; and
  • pneumonia.

Instructions provide patients with valuable information on how to take care of themselves after a procedure or receiving treatment. For instance, patients who undergo surgery are typically provided instructions on how to care for the surgical site (such as changing the dressing) and what signs to look for that may indicate an infection.

When healthcare practitioners don’t provide this information, the incision could become contaminated or the patient might miss signs of an infection. By the time it’s finally detected, it may have spread throughout the body.

What are my legal rights if I believe I was the victim of a healthcare worker’s or facility’s negligence?

Cases involving negligence in healthcare are complex in themselves. But when it comes to proving there was a failure to provide follow-up care and instructions after discharge, plaintiffs may face additional challenges. However, this shouldn’t stop someone from seeking legal advice.

If the plaintiff can prove there was negligence and as a result it caused physical harm, you may be due compensation.. Damages address the costs of additional medical care, pain and suffering, missing more time from work and other losses. Contact an attorney to learn if you have a valid case and the legal options that may be available. Call Gacovino, Lake & Associates at (800) 246-4878.

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