Discharge planners are vital members of a hospital’s patient care team. Although they do not provide direct medical care to patients, they do work with medical staff to ensure a smooth transition back to normal life, or to out-patient care, for patients being discharged from in-hospital care.
Discharge planners have regular contact and work closely with doctors, nurses, medical equipment providers, and insurance companies to determine the length of in-hospital treatment and patients' needs once they are discharged. They also serve somewhat as patient advocates by working to solve clinical, psychosocial, and financial issues on the behalf of patients. Discharge planners often participate in daily treatment rounds with doctors and nurses to monitor care and needs for discharge and also meet with patients and their families to explain discharge options, post-hospital care options, and post-release needs, including placement in nursing homes and assisted care facilities, as well as needs for patients going home, including medical equipment requirements, follow ups, and non-inpatient treatment. They also work to overcome difficulties posed by insurance companies and other barriers patients may encounter upon discharge.
Most discharge planners work in hospital offices and on the care floor during regular business hours, though shifts can vary depending on the hospital and patients' needs. Most discharge planners are registered nurses or medical social workers and have received bachelor’s degrees and further education in hospital administration and related fields. Strong verbal and written communication skills are essential in this position, as is continuing education in medical treatment options, other developments related to discharge planning, and keeping up with legal and other requirements. Most also have prior experience in direct patient care and are licensed appropriately within the medical industry.
Discharge Planner Tasks
Communicate with third party payer case management and provide documentation as required.
Collaborate with patients, families, physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals to facilitate post-hospitalization health care services.
Coordinate the discharge planning and placement of the patient.
Research and negotiate patient needs or other resources during discharge process.