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Better care after leaving the hospital

Melinda Muller
Melinda Muller, M.D., and her team at Legacy Health is working to coordinate and standardize the discharge summary for better patient care.

Nov. 13, 2012 (Portland) โ€” A key part of health care reform is communication. The patient's care providers need to know what happened in the hospital. That's where something as simple as a "hospital discharge summary" comes in.

When a patient leaves the hospital, the hospital sends a discharge summary to the patient's primary care provider to make sure that the provider knows about test results, diagnoses, procedures and medications the patient received while hospitalized.

For patients, a consistent discharge summary means better coordinated care between the hospital and the provider.

But not all discharge summaries are the same, notes Melinda Muller, M.D., an internal medicine physician and clinical vice president for primary care at Legacy Health.

"Right now if I get a patient from OHSU or Providence their discharge summaries may be different," Muller says.

Different hospitals provide different information. Sometimes summaries are not sent quickly enough after discharge. Some hospitals fax them instead of sending electronically. Faxes may not be picked up quickly enough. All of these inconsistencies can lead to confusion on the provider's part and unnecessary readmissions for patients.

"It can be harder for the health care provider to find the information and they might miss something," Muller says.

Muller and her team at Legacy Health โ€“ part of the new Health Share of Oregon coordinated care organization โ€“ want to make sure providers have timely, accurate information. Her goal is to have one consistent document, sent within 24 to 48 hours after discharge, delivered electronically to all parts of the care organization.

A standard discharge summary means better coordinated care for the patient. It can also keep costs down by heading off costly readmissions and duplication of services.

Adventist Health, CareOregon, Central City Concern, Clackamas County, Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health, Multnomah County, Oregon Health & Science University, Providence Health & Services, Tuality Healthcare, and Washington County.

This month the improved summary is expected to be rolled out to Multnomah County Health clinics. Next year it will be used by Providence, and the third year to OHSU hospitals. After that, it is hoped that it will be used by all providers in Health Share of Oregon.