Last week, PatientsLikeMe released a new report highlighting patient experiences and tips regarding how to make the most of inpatient psychiatric treatment. PatientsLikeMe.com is an online community for people with significant, life-changing conditions that emphasizes the sharing of health care data and information publicly. It is thought by sharing such information with one another and for research purposes, we can learn more about health and mental health concerns, more quickly and in a real population than could otherwise be done.
Inpatient psychiatric treatment is not all that common (most people who get treatment for a mental health concern [or “mood condition,” as they call it] do so in an outpatient setting). But because it’s fairly uncommon, there are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about it. So I found the tips and questions the report contains potentially valuable for someone considering inpatient care.
The report summarizes patients’ positive experiences with hospitalization from discussions by participating patients in their mood conditions community. The report highlights four areas patients who are considering inpatient treatment should be aware of, and recommends a set of questions that helps a patient answer pertinent questions in each of these areas. Remember, these are patients’ own recommendations — people who’ve actually gone through the experience.
1. Set clear expectations/goals
Of the patients who reported having a positive inpatient experience, many say they found it helpful to define what they hoped to achieve during hospitalization.
- What is the goal for my time in inpatient therapy?
- Am I here to be stabilized and then immediately released? To learn skills? To take a break?
- Do I need my medication adjusted? If so, do I have a list of the medications I’m taking and their side effects?
- What criteria will I need to meet to be released?
2. Develop new coping skills
This is also a major theme among those who have had a positive inpatient experience, with specific dialogue regarding learning new coping skills during their hospitalization and strategies for dealing with stress and other triggers later on.
- What types of therapy (individual and group, art and music, etc.) are available to me?
- Are there any tools to help me remember what I’m learning (e.g., journals, worksheets, etc.)?
- What new skills can I practice while I’m in inpatient therapy?
- How will the new skills I learn help me in the real world?
3. Coordinate care with your outside therapist/health care team
During and after hospitalization, coordination of care with their own personal psychiatrist, therapist or doctor was another contributing factor to a positive experience for patients. For those patients who didn’t have that relationship prior to hospitalization, many reported developing therapeutic relationships during their stay that continued after their release.
- Will my current therapist see me while I’m getting inpatient care? If not, will the hospital contact my therapist to coordinate care?
- Can I develop a new relationship that will continue after discharge?
4. Create a transition plan
Patients say planning your transition back to the stresses of everyday life is just as important as your actual time in the hospital. Successful planning for this transition may reduce the need for future hospitalization. Many members recommend making a schedule of how you will spend your days at home to provide structure as you move from your inpatient program back to everyday life.
- What kind of support will be in place when I leave? Support groups? Intensive outpatient programs?
- What will my schedule look like when I return home?
- How will I explain my absence to family, friends and colleagues?
Want to learn more or be a part of future patient research efforts? Check out PatientsLikeMe.