Prieto, Lagana, Andrzejczak & Benson Bill to Boost After-Hospital Care Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assemblymen Joseph Lagana, Bob Andrzejczak and Daniel Benson to help boost the quality of care delivered to patients at home after they leave the hospital was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

“The follow-up care required after a hospital stay can be incredibly complicated and overwhelming for the average person,” said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson). “By having hospitals work cooperatively with a patient’s preferred caregiver, we can ensure that they’re getting the level of care they need from the person they feel most comfortable with.”

The bill (A-2955) would require hospitals to provide patients and their legal guardians with the opportunity to designate a caregiver within 24 hours following the patient’s entry into the hospital to provide after-care assistance in the patient’s residence, such as assisting with basic and instrumental daily living activities, and carrying out medical or nursing tasks, such as managing wound care, assisting with administering medications, and operating medical equipment.

“Many times, the sensitive nature of a person’s illness makes them inclined to want treatment from somebody they are familiar and comfortable with,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “However, this person might not be the best equipped to deliver the type of care they need. This bill would change all that by requiring hospitals to work with the caregiver to prepare them.”

A caregiver would be someone, such as a relative, partner, friend, or neighbor, who provides after-care assistance to a patient in the patient’s residence. The hospital would be required to note the details of any designation in the patient’s medical record and request written consent from the patient to release medical information to the caregiver.

“Follow-up care after a hospital stay can often be long and intense,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “This measure will help ensure that patients are getting the care they need from somebody they know and trust.”

“Many family members or friends, no matter how well-intentioned, are not trained to provide the necessary level of medical care needed after many types of hospital stays,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This bill will ensure that they’re properly trained while also creating a solid support network to provide consistent follow-up care.”

A hospital would be required to notify the caregiver of the patient’s discharge or transfer to another facility as soon as possible and not later than four hours prior to the patient’s actual discharge or transfer. At least 24 hours prior to a patient’s discharge from a hospital, the hospital would be required to consult with the designated caregiver and issue a discharge plan that describes a patient’s after-care assistance needs that includes a description of all after-care assistance tasks necessary to maintain the patient’s ability to reside at home, and contact information for any health care, community resources, and long-term services and supports necessary to successfully carry out the patient’s discharge plan.

The hospital would also be required to provide the caregiver with instructions in all after-care assistance tasks described in the discharge plan, including a live or video demonstration of the tasks performed by an authorized hospital employee, an opportunity for the caregiver to ask questions about the tasks, and answers to those questions.

The hospital would be required to document any information concerning the designation of a caregiver in the patient’s medical file, including any after-care assistance instructions provided to the caregiver, any change made by the patient in the caregiver designation, a patient’s refusal to give written consent to the release of medical information, and the patient’s decision not to designate a caregiver.

A patient would be permitted to change designated caregivers at any time and being designated as a caregiver does not obligate the person to provide any after-care assistance to the patient. In the event that a patient is unconscious or otherwise incapacitated upon entry into the hospital, the hospital would be required to provide the patient with an opportunity to designate a caregiver within a time frame at the discretion of the attending physician following recovery of consciousness or capacity.

The measure was approved by the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.