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Graduate Medicine identifies areas of improvement for post-hospital patient care

Hospital discharge summary the key focus of new research.  

A study undertaken by researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) could vastly improve the health outcomes of patients following their discharge from hospital. 

Dr Carl Mahfouz from UOW’s Graduate Medicine (GM), commenced working on an 18-month study into how hospital discharge summaries could be improved to better suit the needs of the GPs and the discharge information they require to optimally address the health care needs of their patients.

“I noticed inconsistencies on the discharge summaries of some of my patients, which prompted me to investigate whether this was a common problem,” he said.

The aim of the study was to establish the essential elements required in a hospital discharge summary to enable successful post-hospital continuity of care.

“Often a discharge summary is the only piece of information I receive when I take over a patient’s care. To be able to provide the patient with the best care it’s of the utmost importance that this document is accurate and reflects the true state of the patient,” Dr Mahfouz said.

The study, which drew from a national sample of General Practitioners (GPs), found that many hospital discharge summaries were missing key information such as diagnostic test results.

“GPs want an accurate, comprehensive discharge summary in a timely fashion that contains only relevant information relating to the most recent admission,” Dr Mahfouz said.

“Discharge summaries should be written by someone who has actually seen the patient, not just a copy and paste of a whole record and irrelevant information.”

The literature has demonstrated that a delay in a GP receiving a timely discharge summary has a strong correlation to a patient having to be readmitted to hospital.

Previous research shows that almost half (49 per cent) of patients discharged from hospital experienced at least one adverse event in their continuing care as a result of incorrect information contained in their hospital discharge summary.

“We hope this study will lead to more changes being made in the format, delivery and content of discharge summaries to be able to provide more comprehensive, timely and accurate care to patients,” Dr Mahfouz said.

Following the release of the research this month, the Pharmacy Department at Wollongong Hospital has incorporated several key changes, including the addition of medication changes and reasons for medication changes to discharge summaries.

The project was funded by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local over an 18-month period.

The study was undertaken by Dr Carl Mahfouz, Professor Andrew Bonney, Associate Professor Judy Mullan and Dr Warren Rich.