One of the trends I’ve seen in medicine over the past several years is that there’s been a dramatic increase in the pressure put on physicians to discharge patients from the hospital. Most of the rush is related to money rather than sound financial reason, and is pushed by health insurance companies and government payors like Medicare and Medicaid.
In many ways, insurance and government payor “bean counters” and accountants have successfully wrestled away medical decision-making from doctors. Well, at least they’ve tried. From my observations, many doctors make discharge planning and decisions based on auto-pilot from the time limits that “big insurance” has fed them. For example, a pregnancy and labor and delivery equals a two-day hospital admission. A cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) can be an outpatient procedure or, at most, a one-day hospitalization.
What some physicians forget, though, is insurance company whims and desires don’t define the standard of care; good, reasonable medicine does. To sum it up, the standard requires a doctor to keep a patient in the hospital when discharging the patient would cause a material deterioration in the patient’s health status or even death.
If you think a doctor and nursing staff are trying to kick you out of the hospital too quickly, you should speak up. Asking direct questions can sometimes jolt health care providers out of their auto-pilot mode and cause them to think about you as an individual patient. Sometimes, though, providers persist and their negligence can cause a serious patient injury.
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Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.