A Queensland hospital service is aiming high with a “real-time” policy to send discharge summaries to GPs on the same day that patients leave the hospital.
The Sunshine Coast Health and Hospital Service plans to introduce the zero-delay target on October 16 with the objective of ensuring continuity of care as patients move from the acute setting to primary care.
A document circulated by GPs on Twitter, which appears to be part of a poster campaign for the no-delay target, bears the slogan: No summary. No discharge!
The artwork shows a patient telling her GP about medication she received in hospital. His response: “You were in hospital?”
Dr Piotr Swierkowski, executive director of medical services at the service, told The Medical Republic the organisation appreciated the need for speed in handovers.
“The Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service aims to optimise hand-over of clinical information at the time of patient discharge from hospital,” Dr Swierkowski said.
“It is recognised that timeliness of this information being shared with our colleagues in primary care is very important. For this reason, the health service is making efforts to provide discharge summaries as soon as is practicable.”
GPs said the health authority had worked closely with clinicians to plan the policy.
The Sunshine Coast service has responsibility for public hospitals at Nambour, Gympie, Caloundra and Maleny, as well as the new public-private Sunshine Coast University Hospital, opened earlier this year.
In the rapidly growing region north of Brisbane, 123,300 patients were discharged from hospital in 2015-16, an increase of more than 8600 from the previous year.
Dr Swierkowski, who practised previously as a GP in NSW and Queensland, had a bitter personal experience of a communication breakdown between primary and acute care in 2013.
A child patient died of meningitis after Nambour hospital doctor failed to carry out Dr Swierkowsi’s written request to perform blood tests.
Queensland GP Dr Michael Rice, who practices at Beaudesert, said it was a welcome sign that hospitals in the state were coming to share GPs’ views of the importance of discharge summaries as vital for patient care.
“The discovery that Sunshine Coast HSS is setting out to have 100% of these documents prepared as a clinical handover at the time the patient leaves the hospital is exciting news, he said. “A lot of Queensland GPs will remember the triplicate carbon-copy discharge summary. The GP always used to get the bottom copy.”