Medicare defines discharge planning as “a process used to decide what a patient needs for a smooth move from one level of care to another.” Traditionally, this represented services to assist patients in arranging the care needed following a hospital stay. This included services for home care, nursing home care, rehabilitative care, outpatient medical treatment, and other assistance. Today, discharge planning is considered a process, not a single event. The process begins at admission and does not end until the patient is placed into the next level of care. Discharge from a hospital does
not mean that a patient has fully recovered. It simply means that a physician has determined that the patient’s condition is stable enough for the next level of care.