Transitioning care to the primary care physician. Communication is key when handing off a diabetic patient to another physician. “The primary care physician needs to know what was changed and why it was changed,” Dr. Kulasa says. “Perhaps a medication was discontinued because the patient suffered acute kidney injury or a new medication was added based on an elevated hemoglobin A1c.”
UNM hospitalists request that new diabetics and patients with a hemoglobin A1c greater than 10 visit the hospital’s diabetes clinic within a week of discharge to allow for further titration of their disease.
“I recommend that each hospital have a plan to handle new diabetics and patients who are out of control,” Dr. Rogers says.
Patient Education. When patients are hospitalized without a prior diagnosis of diabetes and leave diagnosed with diabetes, they are discharged with a number of prescriptions, follow-up appointments, and lifestyle instructions. “We try to explain that they must tend to their disease every day,” Dr. Lenchus says. “I think we lose a lot of folks at this crucial point, and those patients end up being readmitted. In addition, their ability to obtain medications and adhere to regimens is quite difficult.”
As a potential solution, a robust discharge counseling session should occur. “Medications should be reviewed, appointments explained, and lifestyle modifications underscored,” Dr. Lenchus says.
On a similar note, Dr. Foxley finds it challenging to manage discharged patients who go home on insulin for the first time. “Plan ahead and begin the education process at least several days in advance, or you’ll set up a patient to fail,” she says.
Karen Appold is a freelance writer in Pennsylvania.