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Discharge instructions for emergency department patients: what should we provide?
  1. David McD Taylor1,
  2. Peter A Cameron2
  1. 1University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA
  2. 2Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to: Dr David McD Taylor, 9/25 Malmsbury Street, Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia 3122 (e-mail: taylordm{at}


Effective communication between the physician and patient is required for optimum post-emergency department management. Written emergency department discharge instructions, when used to complement verbal instructions, have been shown to improve communication and patient management. This review examines the purpose, advantages, and disadvantages of three commonly used types of discharge instruction. The desirable features of discharge instructions are described. It is recommended that structured, pre-formatted instruction sheets be provided to all patients discharged to home, that emergency departments establish uniform policies to promote best practice in communication, and that the use of discharge instructions be considered as an emergency department performance indicator.

  • discharge instructions
  • communication

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  • Conflict of interest: none.

  • Funding: none.