Handover to GPs – a fresh approach to discharge summaries

Work is underway to improve the quality of medical discharge summaries sent from Central Adelaide LHN clinical teams to GPs.

These summaries play a vital role in providing continuity of care from hospital to a patient’s primary healthcare provider. However, the quality of discharge summaries can be highly variable, as there is currently no set guidance on structure and content outside of few select units.

This project seeks to improve the current process.

The aim is to create succinct, focused guidelines to support Junior Medical Officers in discharge summary development that more effectively meet the needs of GPs.

Dr Andrew Vanlint, Haematology Registrar & Project Lead, said the Handover to GPs trial has been developed in conjunction with feedback from GPs, so Central Adelaide can implement a standardised medical discharge summary template that best serves the needs of GPs and their patients.

“When we set out to create this Handover to GPs summary we had very clear goals in mind,” Dr Vanlint said .

“We wanted to create a clear structure format, well-defined succinct content, we want to summarise specific events that went on within the admission.

“We wanted to include specific medication details and rationale for change. We wanted to have really clear discharge plans for the general practitioner and for whatever the hospital was providing moving forward.

“And we wanted this to be able to be produced quickly and sent out to GPs easily.”

The model is initially being trialled by three Central Adelaide clinical teams (TQEH Upper GI, Gastrointestinal and Cardiology).

An initial focus group with GPs provided guidance on where common problems were occurring with the current process and where improvement was needed.

GPs told us they wanted:

  • A succinct summary
  • Key events and decisions
  • Any new or changed diagnoses
  • Items for GPs to follow up, and a phone call from the treating team if it was urgent
  • Medication changes and rationale for why
  • Key investigations
  • Contact details if there were things they needed to clarify.

The Handover to GPs template is based on the ISBAR model to help provide focused and easy to follow information: Introduction – reason for presentation, Situation – past medical history, Assessment – key issues and management during admission, Recommendations – discharge plans, as well as Investigations – key results and Medications – changes and rational, updated medication list.

We will seek further feedback from GPs with the plan to roll out the discharge summary guidelines throughout Central Adelaide early next year.