To the detriment of patient care, direct communication between hospital-based physicians (hospitalists) and primary care physicians occurs "infrequently," according to a recent study. Through a data review and observational studies, researchers evaluated communication and information transfer at hospital discharge based on timeliness, accuracy, completeness, and overall quality. They found that:
* direct communication between hospitalists and primary care physicians occurred only between 3% and 20% of the time
* the availability of a discharge summary at a patient's first postdischarge visit with his primary care provider was low (12% to 34%)
* discharge summaries often lacked important information, such as test results, the patient's treatment or hospital course, discharge medications, and follow-up plans. Notes on patient or family counseling were missing in about 90% of cases.
A lack of quality discharge information compromised the quality of care in about 25% of follow-up visits, the researchers estimated. They recommended using computerized summaries and standardized formats for better transfer of information between providers.