Background: Hospital discharges are vulnerable periods for patient safety, especially in teaching hospitals where discharges are done by residents with competing demands. We sought to assess whether embedding a nurse practitioner on a medical team to help physicians with the discharge process would improve communication, patient follow-up, and hospital reutilization.
Methods: A 5-month randomized controlled trial was conducted on the medical service at an academic tertiary-care hospital. A nurse practitioner was randomly assigned to 1 resident team to complete discharge paperwork, arrange follow-up appointments and prescriptions, communicate discharge plans with nursing and primary care physicians, and answer questions from discharged patients.
Results: Intervention patients had more discharge summaries completed within 24 hours (67% vs. 47%, P < 0.001). Similarly, they had more follow-up appointments scheduled by the time of discharge (62% vs. 36%, P < 0.0001) and attended those appointments more often within 2 weeks (36% vs. 23%, P < 0.0002). Intervention patients knew whom to call with questions (95% vs. 85%, P = 0.003) and were more satisfied with the discharge process (97% vs. 76%, P < 0.0001). Attending rounds on the intervention team finished on time (45% vs. 31%, P = 0.058), and residents signed out on average 46 minutes earlier each day. There was no significant difference between the groups in 30-day emergency department visits or readmissions.
Conclusions: Helping resident physicians with the discharge process improves many aspects of discharge communication and patient follow-up, and saves residents' time, but had no effect on hospital reutilization for a general medicine population.
Copyright © 2011 Society of Hospital Medicine.