Getting the most from a hospital appointment

Haughton Thornley Medical Centres in Hyde, Greater Manchester has been enabling patients and carers to have full access to their electronic health records and gain a better understanding of their healthcare needs since 2004. All patients are encouraged to sign up so that they can see what the GP or practice nurse has written in the notes and see results of tests and letters back from the hospital as soon as they arrive in the surgery. Responsibly sharing the record with patients and carers allows them to feel more in control of their healthcare and be better prepared when they visit the hosopital with up-to-date information on their smartphone / tablet or PC top share with others. The practice-based web portal supports patients and staff enabling each to learn and share.

If you or your loved one is referred to the hospital then there are a few things you can do that can help you get the most from your appointment.

What kind of appointment do you have?
Is your appointment for A&E, an inpatient stay or an outpatient appointment? In general, an A&E appointment is not usually planned and hence there is often little time if any to plan ahead. Whilst there may be more time to plan for an outpatient or an inpatient appointment, we advise you to be proactive and plan now for any eventuality as though you may be referred to the hospital tomorrow. Being proactive in your healthcare will help you to get the best outcome. See how Haughton Thornley Medical Centres is empowering patients and staff through technology 

Preparing before you ever need to go to the hospital

  • Make sure you know how to access your electronic health records, know your email address and passwords and regularly check it to make sure everything is in order. 
  • There are different apps including Evergreen Life PHR and Patient Accessas well as others too. We recommend you try them and see which suits your needs better. One that is used is much better than one that is never used at all!
  • Get into the habit of viewing your records regularly eg by ordering prescriptions online or booking appointments online or sending secure messages to the practice or before you have a routine appointment at the surgery by logging in and checking. The more you do this, the more natural it will become. This means if you ever need to view your records in an emergency then it will come automatically for you and not something you have forgotten about when you need it most.
  • Familiarise yourself with the electronic health record. There are tweaks and changes happening regularly and new ways of doing things that can save you time and money too.  
  • It is important that your record is free of errors and also does not have information that is missing. There are a variety of reasons why this may happen. However every time you have a healthcare encounter at the surgery or elsewhere (eg going to a walking centre or going to A&E), log into your record and check everything is as it should be and no mistakes have been made. It is usually easier to correct them as soon as they have been recorded than months or years later.
  • Your doctor or nurse should help you to understand your healthcare needs are, what you can do to help yourself and your loved ones and what the key next steps are for you. It is important that you decide together what is best for you. You may not remember all that has been said which is why it is important for you to read again after any consultation what has been agreed and use this as a reminder for you too. 
  • Look at the information on the practice website that is here to help you get the most from the practice and also from the NHS. The main website has a “patient control panel” on the left hand side with lots of useful information to help you understand your healthcare needs better and to enhance your understanding of your own care
  • Think about who else may be interested in your healthcare needs and whom you trust. Hospitals will routinely ask you who your “next of kin” is in case you become unconscious. Why wait for the hospital to ask? If you trust somebody and are happy for them to know your passwords for your electronic health records then consider passing this to them too (or alternatively you can share your electronic health record with them instead. This means you can switch on and off the access too without having to change your passwords.
  • Keep a folder (either electronic or paper-based – whatever you feel comfortable with) with all your important documents eg Advanced Directives, Care Plans and other important information that you may need in an emergency
  • Consider monitoring your own health eg your weight, blood pressure or other aspects that your doctor or nurse can advise you on. Evergreen Life PHR gives you the opportunity to store this data alongside your electronic health records too and can easily display graphs or values which you can see and share with others too

If you have called an ambulance and going to the hospital as an emergency

  • Log into your electronic health record to check it is working for you
  • Collect your folder with important documents in it
  • Collect all the medications you are taking and put them in a bag
  • Ensure your next of kin knows you are going to the hospital and they also know how to access your records if need be 

If you have a routine outpatient appointment

  • If it is the first time you have been referred then have a look at the referral letter the doctor did for you. Check if anything has changed since then for example have you been diagnosed with any new conditions, have the medications changed, have you developed new allergies, has the condition changed in anyway. You will need to update the hospital on changes since then.
  • If it is a follow up then look at the last letter from the hospital about your condition and consider if you need to add anything because that is what the doctor or nurse at the hospital will use to determine next steps with you.

If you are due to go to the hospital for an operation

  • Hopefully your doctor may have advised you on what you can do to help you get the best outcome from surgery.
  • Improving your general health and fitness levels are really important. So stop smoking, reduce your alcohol intake, improve your diet, take in extra exercise to help strengthen your heart. Your doctor or nurse can give you personalised information tailored to your needs based on what health conditions you may have. Even a small amount of exercise a few weeks before planned surgery can help prevent complications later eg post-operative chest infections or even a strain on your heart. Always check with your doctor or nurse if you are unsure what to do.
  • Monitor your blood pressure if you have high blood pressure or blood glucose levels if you have insulin-dependent diabetes. Surgery can often be cancelled at the last moment if your readings are uncontrolled – that can be very disappointing for you and the surgeon and wastes time and precious resources. 

What can you do to help yourself

  • You should have a clear succint list of all your healthcare problems, medications and allergies as well as a list of significant past problems, operations and anything that may have a bearing on the current admission
  • Have a succinct summary of the relevant information about what has brought you to the hospital 
  • Make sure you can view your electronic health records 
  • Note any medications you have not been taking which may be on your medication list (and any other medications you may be taking over the counter or otherwise
  • Make some notes using pre-consultation care to think about what is important for you and what you hope to get following the encounter at the hospital.
  • Charge your phone or tablet so that you can use it whilst you are waiting at the hospital 
  • Speak to your doctor or nuse to see what is relevant for you
  • Ensure your electronic health record is correct and free of errors – it this is not possible then make notes of what information you disagree with and why. This should be ongoing even after you leave the hospital.
  • Look at some of the trusted information that we have collected for you to learn more about your condition.
  • Remember, our doctors, nurses and staff are here to help you get the very best care possible together!