Hospital Medicine

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 24, Issue 9, pp 1002-1006

Adequacy of Hospital Discharge Summaries in Documenting Tests with Pending Results and Outpatient Follow-up Providers

  • Martin C. WereAffiliated withIndiana University School of MedicineRegenstrief Institute, Inc. Email author 
  • , Xiaochun LiAffiliated withIndiana University School of MedicineRegenstrief Institute, Inc.
  • , Joe KestersonAffiliated withRegenstrief Institute, Inc.
  • , Jason CadwalladerAffiliated withIndiana University School of Medicine
  • , Chite AsirwaAffiliated withIndiana University School of Medicine
  • , Babar KhanAffiliated withIndiana University School of Medicine
  • , Marc B. RosenmanAffiliated withIndiana University School of MedicineRegenstrief Institute, Inc.

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ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND

Poor communication of tests whose results are pending at hospital discharge can lead to medical errors.

OBJECTIVE

To determine the adequacy with which hospital discharge summaries document tests with pending results and the appropriate follow-up providers.

DESIGN

Retrospective study of a randomly selected sample

PATIENTS

Six hundred ninety-six patients discharged from two large academic medical centers, who had test results identified as pending at discharge through queries of electronic medical records.

INTERVENTION AND MEASUREMENTS

Each patient’s discharge summary was reviewed to identify whether information about pending tests and follow-up providers was mentioned. Factors associated with documentation were explored using clustered multivariable regression models.

MAIN RESULTS

Discharge summaries were available for 99.2% of 668 patients whose data were analyzed. These summaries mentioned only 16% of tests with pending results (482 of 2,927). Even though all study patients had tests with pending results, only 25% of discharge summaries mentioned any pending tests, with 13% documenting all pending tests. The documentation rate for pending tests was not associated with level of experience of the provider preparing the summary, patient’s age or race, length of hospitalization, or duration it took for results to return. Follow-up providers’ information was documented in 67% of summaries.

CONCLUSION

Discharge summaries are grossly inadequate at documenting both tests with pending results and the appropriate follow-up providers.

KEY WORDS

tests with pending results continuity of care patient safety discharge summary medical errors