Evaluation of immediate discharge documents--room for improvement?

Scott Med J. 2002 Aug;47(4):77-9. doi: 10.1177/003693300204700402.


Background: The Immediate Discharge Document is a tool used to communicate patient discharge information between hospitals and general practitioners. The standard of information provided may be variable, and sometimes delayed in arriving at the GP practice. Typed communication from the hospital can also be slow. This can result in difficulty managing patients in the community following their discharge. Our aim was to assess the quantity of information provided on Immediate Discharge Documents, and to assess the time scale taken for GPs to receive written communications from hospitals regarding patient discharges. An audit was initiated using a tool devised from Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network Publication no 5 and involving four general practices within City of Perth, Scotland. Data was collected over a 28-day period in June/July 2001, by examining Immediate Discharge Documents relevant to each practice population received during this period, and by noting the time of arrival of a final typed summary. Data was analysed by Tayside Audit Resource for Primary Care. A total of 244 Documents were audited. Most significant results include basic administrative detail lacking in up to 30%. Of total documents, 13% failed to record a main condition or diagnosis; 93% recorded drug information, but only in 28% were follow up plans clear; 60% were received within five days of discharge, whilst final typed summaries were received from the hospitals within four weeks only in 51%.

Conclusion: These results show there to be room for improvement with regard communication of patient discharge information, in regard to both the content of information provided and the time it takes to arrive. We require to raise awareness of this problem amongst hospital colleagues involving clinical governance and audit staff, with the objective to improve the quality and timescale of information transfer.

Where this piece fits: It is known that effective information transfer between health professionals is vital to optimise patient care. This work gives further impetus to improve the current standard of communication, and confirms a significant time delay that it takes information to reach GPs from the hospital setting.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Documentation
  • Family Practice
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Medical Audit
  • Medical Records / standards*
  • Patient Discharge*