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A Piece of My Mind
May 26, 2015

The Art of Discharge

Author Affiliations
  • 1Columbia University Medical Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital, New York, New York
JAMA. 2015;313(20):2027-2028. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.2569

Earlier this year, I sat in a dim coffeehouse with a friend as she revealed in frustration that she went to a New York City hospital emergency department for lower abdominal pain. There, a questionable “mass” in her colon was discovered on a CT scan. After a three-day inpatient admission, at the time of discharge, she still didn’t know whether the mass was cancer or what her next steps for diagnosis and treatment would be. So she spoke up and asked to speak to her physician again after the nurse handed her the discharge instructions. Expressing her confusion, she asked questions about what she should do next and what this mass really was. She was shocked when she later received her bill and was slapped with a $300 surcharge on her hospital bill for a “delayed discharge” because she took longer than the 30 minutes that the hospital had allotted for patients to be discharged. Still, no clear answers were provided.