Electronic versus dictated hospital discharge summaries: a randomized controlled trial

J Gen Intern Med. 2009 Sep;24(9):995-1001. doi: 10.1007/s11606-009-1053-2. Epub 2009 Jul 16.


Background: Patient care transitions are periods of enhanced risk. Discharge summaries have been used to communicate essential information between hospital-based physicians and primary care physicians (PCPs), and may reduce rates of adverse events after discharge.

Objective: To assess PCP satisfaction with an electronic discharge summary (EDS) program as compared to conventional dictated discharge summaries.

Design: Cluster randomized trial.

Participants: Four medical teams of an academic general medical service.

Measurements: The primary endpoint was overall discharge summary quality, as assessed by PCPs using a 100-point visual analogue scale. Other endpoints included housestaff satisfaction (using a 100-point scale), adverse outcomes after discharge (combined endpoint of emergency department visits, readmission, and death), and patient understanding of discharge details as measured by the Care Transition Model (CTM-3) score (ranging from 0 to 100).

Results: 209 patient discharges were included over a 2-month period encompassing 1 housestaff rotation. Surveys were sent out for 188 of these patient discharges, and 119 were returned (63% response rate). No difference in PCP-reported overall quality was observed between the 2 methods (86.4 for EDS vs. 84.3 for dictation; P = 0.53). Housestaff found the EDS significantly easier to use than conventional dictation (86.5 for EDS vs. 49.2 for dictation; P = 0.03), but there was no difference in overall housestaff satisfaction. There was no difference between discharge methods for the combined endpoint for adverse outcomes (22 for EDS [21%] vs. 21 for dictation [20%]; P = 0.89), or for patient understanding of discharge details (CTM-3 score 80.3 for EDS vs. 81.3 for dictation; P = 0.81)

Conclusion: An EDS program can be used by housestaff to more easily create hospital discharge summaries, and there was no difference in PCP satisfaction.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internet / standards
  • Male
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized* / standards
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge* / standards