Study aims to reduce number of hospital U-turns

Research: GPs want a more accurate, comprehensive discharge summary for their patients who've been hospitalised according to a UOW study.
Research: GPs want a more accurate, comprehensive discharge summary for their patients who've been hospitalised according to a UOW study.

Wollongong Hospital’s patient discharge summaries are being improved in line with findings from a University of Wollongong study.

The 18-month study, led by Dr Carl Mahfouz, aimed to address the high number of unplanned hospital readmissions occurring at hospitals across the nation.

The research, which drew from a national sample of GPs, found that lack of key information in patient summaries may be contributing to many of these hospital U-turns.

Our survey of GPs found that many were getting incomplete, and untimely, information about their patients after discharge.

Dr Carl Mahfouz

“From working in general practice I had noticed discrepancies on the consistency of these discharge summaries,’’ Dr Mahfouz said.

“For instance some did not contain up-to-date information on the medications a patient was taking, others were missing key information such as diagnostic test results.

“So I wanted to investigate whether other GPs were experiencing similar problems, and whether this was contributing to adverse side effects as well as high readmission rates.

Results: Dr Carl Mahfouz led the study, which he said has led to several key changes to patients discharge papers at Wollongong Hospital. Picture: Paul Jones

Results: Dr Carl Mahfouz led the study, which he said has led to several key changes to patients discharge papers at Wollongong Hospital. Picture: Paul Jones

“Our survey of GPs found that many others were getting incomplete, and untimely, information about their patients after discharge from hospital.’’

Dr Mahfouz said previous research revealed that almost half (49 per cent) of Australian patients discharged from hospital experienced at least one adverse event as a result of incorrect information in their discharge summaries.

“With more accurate information, that figure could be reduced,’’ he said.

“So we identified a list of items that should be included on a summary to give GPs an accurate and comprehensive summary of their patient’s most recent admission.

“We then invited the GPs we surveyed to rank these items in order of importance, and suggest further improvements.’’

Dr Mahfouz hoped that feedback could help health districts with the format, delivery and content of their discharge summaries.

“For instance, following the release of our findings, Wollongong Hospital’s pharmacy department is introducing a new way of reporting medications on discharge summaries,’’ he said.

He said the study was funded by Coordinaire – South Eastern NSW Primary Health Network. Researchers included Professor Andrew Bonney, Associate Professor Judy Mullan and Dr Warren Rich.