The electronic immediate discharge document: experience from the South West of Scotland

Inform Prim Care. 2004;12(2):67-73. doi: 10.14236/jhi.v12i2.110.


Background: Communication and transfer of information between healthcare professionals are essential to a seamless healthcare process, and are vital for ensuring that there is smooth transition of care for patients. Throughout the National Health Service (NHS) Scotland, there is a wide variability in the quality and quantity of information provided in the immediate discharge document (IDD).

Aims: To analyse general practitioner (GP) attitudes and responses on the quality and efficacy of an electronic IDD (e-IDD).

Setting: All GPs in Dumfries and Galloway.

Methods: GPs communicating electronically with the hospital were sent a survey questionnaire at the end of an 18-month pilot. An amended questionnaire surveying potential interest was sent to the remaining GPs in the region.

Results: The overall response rate was 70%. Eighty-one percent of practices connected received the e-IDD regularly, but the majority still used it in conjunction with its postal equivalent. Seventy percent complained of inadequacies in content relating to medication and follow-up information. Eighty percent agreed that it was faster and 68% felt significant cost savings could be made. Eighty-eight percent wanted a multidisciplinary input. Concerns were raised about funding, need for adequate training and back-up systems. Ninety-six percent were optimistic that in future other forms of clinical communications could be sent electronically.

Conclusion: Discharge content is more important than delivery method. Emphasis should be placed on ensuring standards are met on the quality and quantity of current e-discharge documents. Further clarification is required on patient confidentiality issues and legal validity of electronic patient records. E-health is to play a larger and ever-increasing role in the NHS in Scotland.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Computers
  • Computer Communication Networks
  • Confidentiality
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / organization & administration*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / standards
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Physicians, Family
  • Scotland