New Help for After-Hospital Care

After a hospital stay and when back at home, have you ever felt lost about what to do? You were told by the doctor, nurse and/or discharge planner something, but you do not remember exactly what it was. You were also given some papers with instructions, but you had a very hard time trying to figure them out.

When getting medical treatment, especially treatment requiring a hospital stay, it is helpful to have a second set of ears hearing what the health care providers are telling you. This is particularly true when you have been treated in a hospital and you have not yet recovered 100%.

Starting on July 27, 2016, the new Michigan Designated Caregiver Act requires hospitals to work with you and your designated caregiver on your care after the hospital discharge. The act allows you to name a caregiver to provide care to you in your home after you have been discharged from the hospital. If you have not designated a caregiver before your hospital admission, the hospital is required to provide you, or your legal representative, an opportunity to designate a caregiver, who will assist you after your hospital discharge.

Once you have designated a caregiver, the caregiver’s name, how they are related to you and their contact information must be put in your medical record by the hospital. You do not have to name a caregiver. However, if you decline to name a caregiver, that fact must be documented in your medical record.

Before you go into the hospital, make arrangements with someone who agrees to be your caregiver when you are discharged. Even though you name someone as your caregiver, they are under no legal obligation to act as your caregiver and can decline to act.

Once you have designated a caregiver, the hospital is required to notify them of your upcoming discharge. If they hospital cannot get a hold of your designated caregiver, that fact must be documented in your medical record.

In addition to notifying the caregiver of your upcoming discharge, the hospital shall attempt to consult with your caregiver to prepare them for your after-care assistance needs and to issue to them the discharge plan which describes those after-care assistance needs. When possible, the hospital shall provide training and instructions to your caregiver regarding your after-care, which may include live or recorded demonstrations of your after-care. As part of consulting with your caregiver, the hospital shall attempt to provide your caregiver the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers about your after-care assistance needs.

There are some things that the new act specifically states that it does not do:

  • It does not interfere with the rights of your agent under an advance directive. Although the act does not define “agent” or “advance directive”, it appears that the act is referring to your patient advocate under your Designation of Patient Advocate – Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
  • It does not create a right of action against the hospital or any of its agents. You cannot sue them as a result of what they do or don’ t do under the act.
  • The act does not provide any basis for liability against the hospital or any of its agents for services rendered or not rendered by your caregiver. You cannot sue the hospital or any of its agents for anything your caregiver does or does not do.
  • It does not affect any obligations of an insurance company or other health benefit plan provider to provide coverage under a health benefits plan.
  • The act does not affect the obligations of an insurance company to provide benefits under a no-fault automobile policy or worker’s disability compensation policy, or the obligations of a health benefits plan provider to pay for your medical expenses.

So how do you designate a caregiver? You could make the appointment in a separate document entitled Appointment of Designated Caregiver or the statute allows you to make the appointment in your advance directive. As I stated above, this is most likely your Designation of Patient Advocate – Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. In addition, you should also designate backups for your designated caregiver in case a caregiver is unable or unwilling to act.

The new act is good for you as a hospital patient. It provides another mechanism to assure that you have proper care after your discharge from a hospital stay.

By Matthew M. Wallace, CPA, JD

Published edited August 21, 2016 in The Times Herald newspaper, Port Huron, Michigan as: New help for after-hospital care

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