What constitutes a high quality discharge summary? A comparison between the views of secondary and primary care doctors

Rowan Yemm, Debi Bhattacharya and David Wright

School of Pharmacy, University of East Anglia, UK

Submitted: 21/01/2014; Accepted: 01/06/2014; Published: 05/07/2014

Int J Med Educ. 2014; 5:125-131; doi: 10.5116/ijme.538b.3c2e

© 2014 Rowan Yemm et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of work provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Objectives: This study aimed to identify any differences in opinion between UK hospital junior doctors and community General Practitioners (GPs) with respect to the ideal content and characteristics of discharge summaries, and to explore junior doctors' training for and awareness of post-discharge requirements of GPs.

Methods: A piloted anonymous survey was posted to 74 junior doctors at a UK general hospital and 153 local GPs. Doctors were asked to rank discharge summary key content and characteristics in order of importance. GP discharge summary preferences and junior doctor training were also investigated. Non-respondents, identified by non-receipt of a separate participation card, were followed up once.

Results: Thirty-six (49%) junior doctors and 42 (28%) GPs returned completed questionnaires. Accuracy was a priority with 24 (72%) GPs and 28 (88%) junior doctors ranking it most important. Details of medication changes were considered most important by 13 (39%) GPs and 4 (12%) junior doctors. Inadequate training in discharge summary writing was reported by 13 (36%) junior doctors.

Conclusions: Although based on small sample sizes from one location, the level and range of differences in perceived importance of reporting medication changes suggests that many discharge summaries may not currently fulfil GP requirements for managing continuity of care. Results indicate that over a third of junior doctors felt inadequately prepared for writing discharge summaries. There may therefore be both a need and professional support for further training in discharge summary writing, requiring confirmatory research.