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Communication gaps and readmissions to hospital for patients aged 75 years and older: observational study
  1. E M A Witherington1,
  2. O M Pirzada2,
  3. A J Avery3
  1. 1
    Nottingham University Hospitals, Nottingham, UK
  2. 2
    Department of Respiratory Medicine, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, Sheffield, UK
  3. 3
    Division of Primary Care, School of Community Health Sciences, University of Nottingham Medical School, Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham, UK
  1. E M A Witherington, Integrated Discharge Team, Nottingham University Hospitals, City Campus, Hucknall Road, Nottingham NG5 1PB, UK; elizabeth.witherington{at}


Objectives: (1) To identify communication gaps at hospital discharge for older people who are readmitted within 28 days; (2) to assess the contribution of incomplete discharge information to readmission; (3) to identify measures that might improve communication at hospital discharge.

Design: Retrospective case-note review.

Setting: A teaching hospital in Nottingham, UK.

Sample: 108 consecutive patients aged 75 and over who were readmitted as an emergency within 28 days of previous discharge

Main outcome measures: (1) Proportion of patients discharged with insufficient arrangements and/or information for immediate safe continuity of care; (2) proportion of patients with medication management information missing; (3) proportion of readmissions related to incomplete medication management information and proportion of patients for whom this was preventable.

Results: Thirty patients (28%) returned within 3 days of discharge, 48 (44%) within 7 days and the remainder within 28 days. Sixty-seven (62%) patients either had no discharge letter or returned before the letter was typed. Documentation of changes in medication was incomplete on two-thirds of all discharge documents. Readmission was considered to be related to medication for 41 (38%) patients and to be preventable for 25 (61%) of these. There were preventable discharge communication gaps, including monitoring information, for 22 (54%) of these patients.

Conclusion: Incomplete documentation at discharge was common, particularly for medication management. It is likely that communication gaps contributed to many of the preventable adverse events and readmissions.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.