Study 1 Overview (Trivedi et al)
Objective: This observational quality improvement study aimed to evaluate the discharge communication practices in internal medicine services at 2 urban academic teaching hospitals, specifically focusing on patient education and counseling in 6 key discharge communication domains.
Design: Observations were conducted over a 13-month period from September 2018 through October 2019, following the Standards for Quality Improvement Reporting Excellence (SQUIRE) guidelines.
Setting and participants: The study involved a total of 33 English- and Spanish-speaking patients purposefully selected from the “discharge before noon” list at 2 urban tertiary-care teaching hospitals. A total of 155 observation hours were accumulated, with an average observation time of 4.7 hours per patient on the day of discharge.
Main outcome measures: The study assessed 6 discharge communication domains: (1) the name and function of medication changes, (2) the purpose of postdischarge appointments, (3) disease self-management, (4) red flags or warning signs for complications, (5) teach-back techniques to confirm patient understanding, and (6) staff solicitation of patient questions or concerns.
Main results: The study found several gaps in discharge communication practices. Among the 29 patients with medication changes, 28% were not informed about the name and basic function of the changes, while 59% did not receive counseling on the purpose for the medication change. In terms of postdischarge appointments, 48% of patients were not told the purpose of these appointments. Moreover, 54% of patients did not receive counseling on self-management of their primary discharge diagnosis or other diagnoses, and 73% were not informed about symptom expectations or the expected course of their illness after leaving the hospital. Most patients (82%) were not counseled on red-flag signs and symptoms that should prompt immediate return to care.
Teach-back techniques, which are critical for ensuring patient understanding, were used in only 3% of cases, and 85% of patients were not asked by health care providers if there might be barriers to following the care plan. Less than half (42%) of the patients were asked if they had any questions, with most questions being logistical and often deferred to another team member or met with uncertainty. Of note, among the 33 patients, only 2 patients received extensive information that covered 5 or 6 out of 6 discharge communication domains.
The study found variable roles in who communicated what aspects of discharge education, with most domains being communicated in an ad hoc manner and no clear pattern of responsibility. However, 2 exceptions were observed: nurses were more likely to provide information about new or changed medications and follow-up appointments, and the only example of teach-back was conducted by an attending physician.
Conclusion: The study highlights a significant need for improved discharge techniques to enhance patient safety and quality of care upon leaving the hospital. Interventions should focus on increasing transparency in patient education and understanding, clarifying assumptions of roles among the interprofessional team, and implementing effective communication strategies and system redesigns that foster patient-centered discharge education. Also, the study revealed that some patients received more robust discharge education than others, indicating systemic inequality in the patient experience. Further studies are needed to explore the development and assessment of such interventions to ensure optimal patient outcomes and equal care following hospital discharge.