Email Alerts Can Help Improve Quality in a Hospital


Alert emails can be a simple, low-cost means of improving quality in a hospital, as the Department of Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston learned. The trial there is summarized in “Alert Emails Improve Quality in a Large Academic Hospitalist Group,” an abstract by Warren Chuang, MD, and Bijay Acharya, MD.

When each of the hospital’s divisions was asked to designate important quality goals, the Hospital Medicine Division chose pre-noon discharge rate and discharge summary completion timeliness. Group emails were deployed first: Monthly alerts went to the entire unit emphasizing target numbers, reporting the group’s current performance, and outlining future performance needed to meet the targets. This led to an improvement in discharge summary completion rate from 89.1% to 94.8%.

The same improvement was not seen in the pre-noon discharge rate, so the next step was to send individual emails to every attending whose pre-noon discharge rate was below target levels. This resulted in dramatic improvement: Having fallen to 16.0%, the rate rose to 19.5% after the email campaign.

The authors’ conclusion? Periodic individual email alerts that make individual performance transparent may prove to be the most effective way to achieve quality improvement in operational measures.


  1. Chuang W, Acharya B. Alert emails improve quality in a large academic hospitalist group [abstract]. J Hosp Med. 2015;10(suppl2). Available at: http://www.shmabstracts.com/abstract/alert-emails-improve-quality-in-a-large-academic-hospitalist-group/. Accessed February 14, 2016.

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