Healthcare News & Insights

Keys to better patient discharge summaries

There’s more evidence that the hospital discharge process plays a big role in patient outcomes – and for some hospitals, it’s a big problem.

186931392According to new research from the Yale University School of Medicine, creating a detailed discharge summary and quickly distributing it to patients’ doctors improved patient outcomes after a hospital stay, decreasing the chance they’d be readmitted within 30 days.

In a nutshell, the better the discharge summaries were, the less likely a patient would suffer complications that could cause readmission.

The study identified three keys to improved discharge summaries:

  1. Timeliness. The faster a hospital could put together a summary and get a copy to the patient’s primary care provider, the better. While most facilities studied had their summaries prepared within three days of discharge, almost 8% didn’t have them ready until 30 days after discharge.
  2. Transmission. Often, hospitals don’t take the time to do the legwork required to send the summary to the correct clinician or practice after discharge. Doing this would streamline patients’ recovery, increasing the likelihood that they’ll get the follow-up care they need.
  3. Content. Many discharge summaries fail to contain important information, such as the patient’s condition at discharge, pending tests or recommendations for further follow up.

Role of EHRs

According to researchers, discharge summaries that followed these guidelines were associated with better patient outcomes, even after adjusting for individual hospital and patient characteristics.

One way to ensure that discharge summaries meet these guidelines: Take advantage of the features of your hospital’s electronic medical records (EHR) system. An EHR that can quickly transmit information about a patient’s hospital stay to a designated primary care provider helps cut back on problems caused by inadequate information after discharge.

Creating a “discharge template” that clinicians can start using to capture the details of a patient’s condition before discharge can help. Clinicians would just have to remember to put the appropriate details in the template during a patient’s hospital stay.

Talk to your EHR vendor to see if your system can be customized for these purposes.

If your hospital’s EHR system can’t send this information to a provider because it’s not compatible with the provider’s EHR, make it a priority to fax the office a copy of your discharge summary right away – or see if it can be securely emailed.

Advance prep

Preparing for a smooth discharge begins when a patient is first admitted.

If you’re evaluating your discharge process, the American Hospital Association (AHA) recently released a report with five guidelines hospitals should follow when it comes to discharge planning:

  1. Closely consider each patient’s needs before deciding on post-hospital placement once a person is discharged.
  2. Be sure discharge planning is centered around the medical judgment of doctors, nurses and other clinicians treating the patient.
  3. Use available resources (like EHRs) to their full capacity to decrease the administrative burden that discharge planning can create.
  4. Information to optimize patient health should be readily available to both clinicians and patients throughout the hospital stay in anticipation of discharge.
  5. During the patient’s hospital stay, clinicians should collect information designed to make the best choices for follow up care after discharge.

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