The second reason for resisting this idea is the perceived difficulty or cost of implementing it. I’m fortunate that most of my patients can get a paper copy of the discharge summary I’ve prepared as they are leaving the hospital. Of course, this requires that I dictate the report at the time of the discharge visit, and it is transcribed immediately. If you can’t pull this off, then I suggest that you have a copy mailed (or e-mailed if feasible) within a day or two of discharge. If the summary isn’t available when the patient is ready to leave, I wouldn’t have him stay and needlessly tie up a hospital bed. When this happens to my patients, I have them go ahead and leave, and a copy is mailed to them.
So I hope you will consider making this a routine practice in your hospital. The costs are small, and the potential benefit to quality of care and patient satisfaction could be significant. TH
Dr. Nelson has been a practicing hospitalist since 1988 and is a co-founder and past-president of SHM. He is a principal in Nelson/Flores Associates, a national hospitalist practice management consulting firm. This column represents his views and is not intended to reflect an official position of SHM.