Improving Hospital Discharge Safety With Effective Communication

According to an article in Society of Hospital Medicine, nearly (49%), of patients released from a hospital will experience at least one medical error related to follow-up care. The article suggested that the majority of the errors were related to a breakdown in communication between the “in-hospital team” and the patient’s primary care physician.

Many hospitals today employ “hospitalists” to provide care for their patients instead of having a primary care physician direct the care. As a result, your physician may have very little knowledge of your hospital stay. Because of this, you will want to do everything in your power to be sure that effective communication is part of your hospital discharge plan.

Critical Transition Period

The hospital discharge is considered a transition period. During this time, the responsibility of your care is being transferred from your hospital based providers to your primary care physician. This is a very critical time as many patients are vulnerable to errors if effective communication is not present.

Important information about your hospital stay e.g., discharge medication, test results (completed, pending and planned), and new diagnosis needs to be relayed to your primary care physician.

Communication Is a Challenge

The standard form of communication between the hospital care team and the primary care physician is the discharge summary. Unfortunately, the discharge summary is rarely available during the first follow-up visit (12-34%) and it often lacks important details of the hospitalization.

In fact, as many as 61% of physicians are unaware of test results that may change the course of your care following discharge. This fragmentation of care is very dangerous and may lead directly to a medical error, readmission to the hospital or substandard care.

Ask Your Hospital Team to Contact Your Primary Care Physician

The quality of your care, following the hospital discharge, will be dependent upon the quality of the communication between your hospital team and your primary care physician. In an ideal world, your physician would have direct contact with the hospitalist to exchange information and discuss your plan of care.

Because of this, you need to do everything in your power to make sure this communication takes place. Complete the form below and then give it to your hospitalist. This will help ensure a safe and secure transition home from the hospital.

Dear Dr. __________________________

Please call my primary care physician, Dr. __________________at #______________________

to discuss my condition and treatment recommendations.

Thank you!


Remember, the quality of your health care is dependent upon the quality of communication that occurs between your providers of care.



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