CJEM Articles: comprehension
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Noncompletion of referrals to outpatient specialty clinics among patients discharged from the emergency department: a prospective cohort studyJuly 2010 12 4Jennifer Vergel de Dios, Kate Hanneman, Steven Marc Friedman
Objective: We sought to characterize patients who are referred from the emergency department (ED) to specialty clinics but do not complete the referral, and to identify reasons for their failure to follow up.
Methods: A prospective cohort study was carried out over 3 months of patients who were discharged from the ED of a teaching hospital with referral to internal medicine, cardiology or neurology clinics, but who did not complete the referral. Information on demographics, barriers to care and reasons for not completing the referral was obtained through a standardized telephone interview.
Results: Of 171 ED referrals, 42 (24.6%) were not completed. Interviews were completed for 71.4% (30 patients). Of the nonattenders, 80% were functional in English and most had high school (73.1%) or university (60.7%) education. Virtually all (93.0%) interviewees could get to hospital by themselves or have someone take them. Only 42.9% (12 patients) understood why the emergency physician (EP) requested consultation, and 42.9% (12 patients) described EP instructions as poor or fair. Primary reasons for noncompletion of consult were patient choice (46.7%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 27.1%–66.2%), physical or social barriers (13.3%, 95% CI 0.0%–27.2%), communication failure (20%, 95% CI 4.0%–36.0%) and consultant’s refusal of the consultation (20% [95% CI 4.0%–36.0%]). All consultant refusals were from one internal medicine clinic, representing 42% (8/19) of ED referrals to that clinic. None of the 6 patients interviewed who were declined consultation was aware that their consultation had been refused.
Conclusion: Patients discharged by the EP with referral to specialty clinics frequently do not complete the consultation. Causes for failure to follow up relate to patient decision, inadequate or poorly understood discharge information, and system factors. Institutional audits of patients who fail to complete follow-up may reveal unanticipated barriers to care.
Christopher Culligan, Collin Clarke, Jose Monzon, Kevin Shi, Steven Marc Friedman, Tamara Arenovich
Objectives: To assess patient comprehension of emergency department discharge instructions and to describe other predictors of patient compliance with discharge instructions.
Methods: Patients departing from the emergency department of an inner-city teaching hospital were invited to undergo a structured interview and reading test, and to participate in a follow-up telephone interview 2 weeks later. Two physicians, blinded to the other's data, scored patient comprehension of discharge information and compliance with discharge instructions. Inter-rater reliability was assessed using a kappa-weighted statistic, and correlations were assessed using Spearman's rank correlation coefficient and Fisher's exact test.
Results: Of 106 patients approached, 88 (83%) were enrolled. The inter-rater reliability of physician rating scores was high (kappa = 0.66). Approximately 60% of subjects demonstrated reading ability at or below a Grade 7 level. Comprehension was positively associated with reading ability (r = 0.29, p = 0.01) and English as first language (r = 0.27, p = 0.01). Reading ability was positively associated with years of education (r = 0.43, p < 0.0001) and first language (r = 0.24, p = 0.03), and inversely associated with age (r = -0.21, p = 0.05). Non-English first language and need for translator were associated with poorer comprehension of discharge instructions but not related to compliance. Compliance with discharge instructions was correlated with comprehension (r = 0.31, p = 0.01) but not associated with age, language, education, years in anglophone country, reading ability, format of discharge instructions, follow-up modality or association with a family physician.
Conclusions: Emergency department patients demonstrated poor reading skills. Comprehension was the only factor significantly related to compliance; therefore, future interventions to improve compliance with emergency department instructions will be most effective if they focus on improving comprehension.