An evaluation of educational interventions aimed at preparing medical students for discharge summary writing: a rapid review of the literature

Ir J Med Sci. 2020 Jul 28. doi: 10.1007/s11845-020-02325-0. Online ahead of print.


Whilst discharge summaries are important for ensuring patient continuity of care, they often lack important information. Medical students and newly qualified doctors have attributed this to insufficient teaching, thereby indicating a need to improve discharge summary education within the undergraduate medical curriculum. The aim was to review educational approaches used to prepare undergraduate medical students for discharge summary writing, and their effectiveness Medline and Scopus were systematically searched using keywords, for studies published between 2009 and 2019. Narrative synthesis was used to integrate the findings of the included studies. Study quality was appraised using the Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument. Six studies were included in this review. Allowing students to write a discharge summary following a real patient encounter and receive written feedback was the most common educational approach used (n = 4). Three of these studies improved student attitudes towards discharge summary writing. One study described the use of a mobile application, which improved discharge summary quality. Another study utilized interprofessional learning but the effect was statistically insignificant. Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument scores were satisfactory (mean = 12, range = 8.4-15). The literature concerning this topic is limited. The results indicate that providing written feedback to students can positively influence attitudes towards discharge summary writing. Optimisation of the quality of discharge summaries written by medical students using feedback and checklists requires further investigation, as does the use of interprofessional learning. Future studies would additionally benefit from including participant baseline data and control groups, being multicentred and measuring behavioural or patient/healthcare outcomes.

Keywords: Curriculum; Discharge summaries; Medical students; Review; Transitional care; Undergraduate medical education.

Publication types

  • Review