Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 24, Issue 9, pp 1002–1006 | Cite as

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

  • Martin C. WereEmail author
  • Xiaochun Li
  • Joe Kesterson
  • Jason Cadwallader
  • Chite Asirwa
  • Babar Khan
  • Marc B. Rosenman
Hospital Medicine



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


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


Retrospective study of a randomly selected sample


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.


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.


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.


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


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



This work was performed at Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, and was supported by grant LM07117-11 from NLM and KL2RR025760-01 from NCRR. The authors appreciate the support of Drs. Marc Overhage, William M. Tierney and IUSM EIP-REACH.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin C. Were
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Xiaochun Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joe Kesterson
    • 2
  • Jason Cadwallader
    • 1
  • Chite Asirwa
    • 1
  • Babar Khan
    • 1
  • Marc B. Rosenman
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Indiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.Regenstrief Institute, Inc.IndianapolisUSA

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