Discharge summaries are a vital tool to communicate information from Hospital to Primary Care teams; updating GPs about what happened during an admission, and handing over care detailing any follow up care required. Historically, Discharge Summaries have been posted to hospitals, increasing costs for hospitals, creating administrative work for GP practices receiving the letters, and resulting in some letters being lost or delayed in reaching the GP, with implications for patient safety if follow up requests are not received and acted upon.
In an effort to improve patient care, the Clinical Commissioning Group in Surrey drew up a contract with Ashford and St Peter's Foundation Trust, aiming to increase the percentage of discharge summaries sent electronically from the rate of 9% sent within 24 hours, to over 75%. This contract set targets of 50% in May, 65% in June, and 80% in July. Financial penalties would be imposed if targets were not achieved, starting in June 2013.
The Trust set up a working group comprising of doctors, IT personnel and ward PAs to devise a multi-pronged solution to achieve this target. The electronic discharge summary system was reviewed and improvements were designed and developed to make the process of signing off letters easier, and transmission of signed off letters became automated rather than requiring manual transmission by ward PAs. Presentations and leaflets to explain the importance of prompt completion and transmission of discharge summaries were given to Doctors to improve compliance using the revised IT system. Figures on transmission rates were automatically emailed to key stakeholders every day (Ward PAs, Divisional Leads) showing performance on each ward. This helped identify areas requiring more intervention. Areas (e.g. Day Surgery) that had not used electronic discharge summaries were engaged with, and persuaded to take part.
As a result, transmission rates of Discharge Summaries within 24 hours of patient discharge increased from 9% on May 11th 2013, to 76% by June 29th 2013. This has improved communication with GPs, led to more reliable handover of care, and reduced costs for the Trust (both in processing and postage costs, and by avoiding fines).
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