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A randomised controlled trial assessing the efficacy of an electronic discharge communication tool for preventing death or hospital readmission


Objective To assess the efficacy of an electronic discharge communication tool (e-DCT) for preventing death or hospital readmission, as well as reducing patient-reported adverse events after hospital discharge. The e-DCT assessed has already been shown to yield high-quality discharge summaries with high levels of patient and physician satisfaction.

Methods This two-arm randomised controlled trial was conducted in a Canadian tertiary care centre’s internal medicine medical teaching units. Out of the 1953 patients approached and screened for inclusion, 1399 were randomised and available for data linkage for determination of the primary outcome. Participants were randomly assigned to e-DCT versus usual care (traditional discharge communication generated by dictation). The primary outcome was a composite of death or readmission within 90 days. The secondary outcome included any patient-reported adverse events within 30 days of discharge.

Results Among 1399 randomised participants, 230 of 701 participants (32.8%) in the e-DCT group experienced the primary composite outcome of death or readmission within 90 days vs 205 of 698 participants (29.4%) in the usual care group (p=0.166). The incidence at 30 days of patient-reported adverse outcomes (35% for e-DCT vs 34% for usual care) and adverse events (2.1% for e-DCT vs 1.8% for usual care) also did not differ significantly between groups.

Conclusions The e-DCT tested did not reduce the composite endpoint of death or readmission at 90 days, nor the incidence of patient-reported adverse events at 30 days. This neutral finding for hard clinical endpoints needs to be considered in the context of high patient and physician satisfaction, and high quality of discharge summaries.

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