Patient safety depends on timely, quality clinical handovers

Laptop and clinical notes

Communication between hospitals and doctors can have an enormous impact on the health outcomes of patients, and it all starts with a humble discharge summary.

Poor transfer of care arrangements between a hospital and a patient’s GP is a known risk to patient safety and a predictor of readmission within 7 days.   

A recent complaint illustrates the risks to patients who are discharged without timely clinical handover notes. A patient was discharged from a hospital with Warfarin, requiring immediate monitoring by the GP. The GP did not receive the discharge summary until five days after the patient had been discharged, placing the patient at risk of being under or over anticoagulated.

The AMA recently updated a Position Statement on General Practice/Hospitals Transfer of Care Arrangements. In promoting effective transfer of care arrangements between general practitioners and hospitals the Statement recommends a GP who refers a patient to hospital should provide all relevant information about the patient, and not simply a referral letter. It also recommends hospitals inform the GP within 24 hours of a patient’s unplanned admission and or discharge.

The Council strongly supports steps to improve the timeliness and quality of clinical handovers between hospitals and GPs so as to reduce avoidable patient harm and resulting complaints.

Poor transfer of care arrangements between a hospital and a patient’s GP is a known risk to patient safety and a predictor of readmission within 7 days.