Discharge summaries reduce hospital readmissions

16 January 2015

A discharge summary can help patients suffering with heart failure make the transfer from hospital to home easier, a new study has found.

The research from Yale School of Medicine, which is published in the current issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, found that a document given to a patient's primary doctor containing useful information can mean the difference between recovering quickly or returning to the hospital.

Theoretically, discharge summaries are meant to inform doctors about the reason their patient was hospitalised, and what happened to them while they were there. 

However, according to lead author Leora Horwitz, adjunct associate professor of internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine and director of the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Delivery Science at New York University Langone Medical Center, professionals aren't making full use of discharge summaries.

Using data from more than 1,500 discharge summaries, the team said in order for a discharge summary to do its job, it needs three key factors: It has to be timely, it has to be sent to the outside physician, and it has to include useful information. 

"This study tells us for the first time that it is actually worth spending the time and effort to improve discharge communication, and patients do seem to benefit," said Dr Horwitz.

Posted by ​Phillip Briggs 

 

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