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There has been a recent move in psychiatry towards the use of electronic discharge (e-discharge) summaries in an effort to improve the efficiency of communication between primary and secondary care, but there are little data on how this affects the quality of information exchanged.
To evaluate the quality of psychiatric discharge summaries before and after the introduction of the e-discharge summary system.
A retrospective analysis of 50 dictated discharge summaries from 1 January to 1 July 2010 and of 50 e-discharge summaries from 1 January to 1 July 2012, evaluating for the inclusion of 15 key items of clinical information.
The average total score of the dictated summaries (mean=9.5, s.d.=2.0) was significantly higher (p<0.001) than the e-discharge summaries (mean=6.7, s.d.=1.8). There were statistically significant differences in five of the standards: findings of physical examination (p<0.001), ICD-10 code (p<0.001), forensic history (p<0.001), alcohol history (p<0.001) and drug history (p<0.001).
Our results revealed a decline in the quality of discharge summaries following the introduction of an electronic system. The reasons for this are unclear and require further analysis. Specific suggestions will depend on the local need, but include improvements in software design and layout as well as better education and training.
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