Professional medical societies endorse prompt, consistent discharge communication to primary care providers (PCPs) on discharge. However, evidence is limited about what clinical elements to communicate. Our main goal was to identify and compare the clinical elements considered by PCPs and pediatric hospitalists to be essential to communicate to PCPs within 2 days of pediatric hospital discharge. A secondary goal was to describe experiences of the PCPs and pediatric hospitalists regarding sending and receiving discharge information.
A survey of physician preferences and experiences regarding discharge communication was sent to 320 PCPs who refer patients to 16 hospitals, with an analogous survey sent to 147 hospitalists. Descriptive statistics were calculated, and χ2 analyses were performed.
A total of 201 PCPs (63%) and 71 hospitalists (48%) responded to the survey. Seven clinical elements were reported as essential by >75% of both PCPs and hospitalists: dates of admission and discharge; discharge diagnoses; brief hospital course; discharge medications; immunizations given during hospitalization; pending laboratory or test results; and follow-up appointments. PCPs reported reliably receiving discharge communication significantly less often than hospitalists reported sending it (71.8% vs 85.1%; P < .01), and PCPs considered this communication to be complete significantly less often than hospitalists did (64.9% vs 79.1%; P < .01).
We identified 7 core clinical elements that PCPs and hospitalists consider essential in discharge communication. Consistently and promptly communicating at least these core elements after discharge may enhance PCP satisfaction and patient-level outcomes. Reported rates of transmission and receipt of this information were suboptimal and should be targeted for improvement.