General practitioner-hospital communications: a review of discharge summaries

J Qual Clin Pract. 2001 Dec;21(4):104-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1762.2001.00430.x.


The objective of this study was to examine the reliability, effectiveness, accuracy and timeliness of hospital to general practitioner (GP) information transfer by discharge summaries produced in a general public hospital in New South Wales, Australia. A retrospective audit of 569 patient discharge summaries and related medical records with a targeted GP interview was performed to determine receipt and clinical value of the recorded information. The main outcome measure was the number and quality of discharge summaries received by patient-nominated GPs. Summaries written for patients discharged from hospital were estimated to be received by the patient-nominated GP in 27.1% of cases. Discharge summaries audited were rated as being 63.6% accurate, with errors occurring in all facets of production. The current method of discharge summary production and distribution is unacceptable. The high number of errors (36.4%) and the low rate of receipt (27.1%), indicates that resources invested in the production of the discharge summary could be better utilized to improve information transfer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / standards*
  • Health Services Research
  • Hospital-Physician Relations*
  • Hospitals, Public / standards*
  • Humans
  • Information Management / standards
  • Medical Records / standards*
  • New South Wales
  • Patient Discharge / standards*
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Retrospective Studies