Arthur Shorr (Former COO and SVP of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center) gives expert video advice on: How will a hospital know that I need to come in for a medical procedure?; Can I request a private room for my hospital stay?; What should I bring with me for my hospital stay? and more...
What steps can I take to prepare, in case I'm ever hospitalized?
First and foremost, start preparing for potential hospitalization by finding and developing a relationship with a primary care physician. Visit that physician for regular check-ups. Follow that physician's recommendations for improving and maintaining your health. Based on your physician's recommendation, if you need hospitalization, you can do so in an orderly way under the supervision of someone who knows you and your needs personally.
How will a hospital know that I need to come in for a medical procedure?
The hospital knows you're coming because the physician's office has called the admissions office and has notified them of who you are, what your name is, your date of birth, your social security number, and the date they can expect you to be there. They have reserved a hospital room for you and a time of arrival. Very similar to a hotel reservation, a reservation is made for you by the office staff of your physician in advance of coming for an elective admission.
What is 'pre-admission'?
The pre-admission process is something that happens for elective hospital admissions, where they can be scheduled in advance by you and your physician. The physician's office will call and book a room for you in the hospital on a certain date. The hospital staff will then call you and invite you to come into the hospital sometime before the formal admission date to get all the paperwork taken care of, all the examinations that your doctor may order - X-rays, lab work - that are done in advance, make all the financial arrangements. When it is time for you to come to the hospital for your medical care, all of the preliminaries are taken care of and you can go to your room and not worry about the administrative issues because they are taken care of, and focus in on the care issues of why you are at the hospital.
Why do hospitals have pre-admission?
Pre-admission is a process designed to make the hospital care provided to you efficient, move as rapidly as possible and keep you in the hospital for as few days as your condition requires. To that end, we may do X-rays, blood tests, and other diagnostic tests ordered by your physicians in advance. We try to get all the paperwork done - all the authorizations, all the consent forms - and get the financial issues all done before you actually come to the hospital to have your medical care needs met.
What questions should I ask during the pre-admission process?
During the pre-admission process, you should be able to get answers to most all of your non-medical questions, such as visiting hours, use of a cell phone, hours for incoming phone calls, and cost and availability of television services in your hospital room. Keep in mind that you are going to be meeting with a clerical individual who is not going to be able to answer any of your questions about medical care or the procedures you're going to have when hospitalized.
What is 'pre-admission testing'?
To keep the cost of health care down, some laboratory tests and X-rays that are required as part of your hospitalization can and should be done in advance of your admission. Usually it's more efficient for these tests to be performed a few days before you are admitted. This way, your doctor gets the results a few days in advance and helps minimize your stay in the hospital.
Should I arrange care for my family while I am in the hospital?
To avoid unnecessary stress, you should plan in advance to arrange care for any family members that you're responsible for, such as children or elderly parents. Make those arrangements as you would for any other situation where you're going to away from home. To the extent that the hospital social service department can be helpful to you, they will, but again that which you can do in advance of your hospitalization will make the process less stressful to you.
Can I request a private room for my hospital stay?
You can request a private room, and some hospitals have a large number of private rooms; some have a limited number of private rooms. You may be assigned a private room based on the nature of your medical needs. For example, if you have an infectious disease or if you have another condition that requires a level of privacy, your doctor will order that for you. If it is not medically necessary, most insurance companies will not pay for private rooms and you will be asked to pay the additional cost of a private room. Again, it's important for you, particularly in the pre-admitting process, to ask those questions of the admissions clerk and understand how much the charge would be, so you can make a decision as to whether or not you wish to make that payment for a private room or not.
Can I request special meals for my hospital stay?
You can request special meals in hospital, but please understand that your doctor will determine what kind of diet you will be served. If you're a vegetarian or if you eat only kosher food, for example, hospitals can surely meet those needs, but they must be with the approval of the order written for your dietary needs by your physician. If you have specific food allergies, it's very important that you tell your physician this. You should also tell the clerk in pre-admissions and you should also tell the nurse who assesses you when you're first admitted to your room. You should also check with your nurse that any information that you've given about food allergies is listed in your medical records. When you have food allergies, you should expect to see a brightly-colored sign put in your medical record and/or at the foot of your bed that says "Allergies" and it has them listed, so that any dietary aids that are delivering meals to you will be sensitive to that and help prevent any errors that occur.
Do I need to pay the hospital before I am actually admitted?
In some instances, you may be required to pay for your hospitalization in advance. If you are going to the hospital for an elective procedure, such as cosmetic surgery, for which there is no insurance company, it is very likely that you are going to be asked to pay in advance. If you are being admitted for something of medical necessity and have no insurance or limited insurance, you may be asked to sign an agreement to take responsibility for those fees. It is very important to check with the hospital admissions department to make sure you understand your obligations before you are admitted. If you don't have medical insurance, it is sometimes possible to negotiate a discount if you are able pay for your care all at one time rather than in installments.
What should I bring with me for my hospital stay?
If you have to be hospitalized on a planned basis, please bring a copy of your personal health record and a copy of your advanced healthcare directive if you have these documents. Many patients like to bring their own sleeping gowns, foot coverings, and toothbrushes to make themselves more comfortable in hospital. Please bring books and magazines to read. Bring a list of telephone numbers of people you may want to call. Bring a small amount of money for sundries, telephones, newspapers and snacks, and please bring a copy of your own personal identification, usually a drivers' license.
What should I leave at home when I head for the hospital?
Do not bring jewelry to hospital; do not bring valuables or large amounts of cash. Do not bring anything that you'd be sorry to lose, such as important documents or photographs or expensive clothing. Your hospital room will most likely have a clock in it, so there's not even a reason for you to bring a watch.