Before Leaving the Hospital: Get All the Paperwork

Impatient to be gone, and often suffering the woozy side effects of surgery and post-operative pharmaceuticals, patients too often find themselves back at home later, missing important documents that could have easily been obtained back at the hospital . So before you hightail it out of your medical center or clinic, be sure that you have obtained all your important documents.

Generally, larger hospitals provide complete medical documentation as part of the standard exit procedure. However, some smaller clinics may rely more on verbal instructions, and they are less likely to build and maintain a dossier on your case.

Regardless, be sure that you have the following in your possession before you walk out of the hospital (ideally, prior to making final payment):

Any x-rays your surgeon and staff may have taken. Try to get all x-rays and images in digital form (.jpg or .tif files), as well as hard copy.

Any pre- or post-operative photographs. If your doctor doesn’t take them, you might ask your companion to snap a few close-ups. While not entirely complimentary, photographs provide additional visual information for your specialists back home, as well as backup should complications arise.

Any test results from exams, blood work, lab work, or scans.

Post-operative instructions (e.g., diet and physical activity precautions, bed rest, bandaging, bathing). If your doctor doesn’t furnish you with such instructions, ask for them. If you can’t obtain written instructions, arrange a time to talk with your doctor and take careful notes.

Prescribed medication(s) and the written prescription(s), including instructions on dosage and duration. If the pharmaceutical is a brand name manufactured in a country outside your country, be sure to ask your doctor for the comparable prescription in your country. Your doctors at home may not know, and they’ll feel more confident prescribing for you if you can provide them with documentation from your overseas doctor or pharmacist.

Physical therapy recommendations or prescriptions, including full schedules and instructions.

Exit papers that indicate your discharge with a clean bill of health.

Insurance claim forms, if you’ve determined that your treatment is covered by a particular plan or for a particular hospital.

Receipts for payment, particularly if you paid in cash.

Speaking of paperwork, be sure to keep a journal near your bed, so that you or your companion can easily jot notes and keep them in a central place. Keep lists of questions so you don’t forget to ask them. Record all verbal instructions and important observations for future reference.

—Excerpted from Patients Beyond Borders World Edition

Last updated on 25 November 2015