Improving patient understanding on discharge from the short stay unit: an integrated human factors and quality improvement approach

Jenna Lauren Elizabeth Cook (Lead / Corresponding author), Evie Fioratou, Peter Davey, Lynn Urquhart

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5 Citations (Scopus)
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This intervention used a systems approach to improve patient understanding on discharge from the adult acute medicine short stay unit (SSU). Patient understanding was assessed across five domains: diagnosis, medication changes, follow-up care, return instructions and knowing who their consultant was. The aim of this approach was that at least 90% of patients achieved near-complete understanding (score >4) on questionnaire across all five discharge domains by the end of April 2021. Pre-intervention most patients received verbal instructions and only a minority received written information. Through staff interviews, we identified the electronic discharge document (EDD) as a practical source of written information. However, testing with patients showed that the format required substantial redesign to be written in patient-friendly language, using signposting, spacing information out and avoiding jargon. The effect of this intervention was assessed with a structured telephone questionnaire, which included both a patient self-rated score and a comparative understanding score to assess true patient understanding of the revised EDD. Pre-intervention 29 discharged patients were interviewed across 10 days and post-intervention 10 patients were interviewed in 7 days. Patients consistently over-rated their understanding of discharge information. Only one patient achieved the aim of comparative understanding >4 across all domains post-intervention. Understanding improved across all but one of the domains, the exception being medication changes. An important unanticipated consequence was that interviews identified inconsistencies in EDD information and gaps in patient understanding, which required escalation to the SSU team. In summary, this intervention improved patient understanding across four of the five domains. However, further work is required on process reliability for the redesigned EDD and on improving understanding of medication changes. Furthermore, the interviews revealed clinically important inconsistencies in EDD information and gaps in patient understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001810
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open Quality
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2022


  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Quality Improvement
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Patient education
  • Human factors
  • Patient Discharge
  • Healthcare quality improvement
  • Communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy
  • Leadership and Management


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