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How well informed are patients when leaving the emergency department? comparing information provided and information retained
  1. Hans Marty1,
  2. Yvonne Bogenstätter2,
  3. Gabriela Franc2,
  4. Franziska Tschan2,
  5. Heinz Zimmermann1
  1. 1Emergency Department, Inselspital, University Hospital Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  2. 2Institut de Psychologie du Travail et des Organisations, University of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yvonne Bogenstätter, Institut de Psychologie du Travail et des Organisations, Université de Neuchâtel, Rue Emile-Argand 11, Neuchâtel CH-2000, Switzerland; yvonne.bogenstaetter{at}


Study objective Patients discharged from the emergency department (ED) should be informed comprehensively and accurately about the diagnosis, future examinations and follow-up care. This study investigates: (1) how comprehensively patients are informed by physicians on discharge; (2) how accurately patients remember this information after discharge; (3) how well informed overall patients leave the ED; and (4) whether informedness relates to patient satisfaction.

Methods This study compares: (1) information given during discharge conversations, based on audio recordings of the conversations, with (2) accuracy of patient recall of this information, based on postdischarge interviews. During these interviews, the authors also assessed (3) amount and accuracy of information provided during treatment. Furthermore, the authors obtained (4) satisfaction ratings by physicians and patients. Data were collected for 96 patients during 20 shifts.

Results Sufficient information was provided in 83% of discharge conversations. Patients correctly recalled 82% of information received about diagnosis, 56% about examinations planned and 72% about follow-up treatments. Information related to medication was most prone to forgetting or distortion. Altogether, 43% of the patients left the ED correctly informed about diagnosis, planned examinations and follow-up. Patient satisfaction ratings were high (mean 4.7 on a 5-point Likert Scale) and not related to informedness of the patient.

Conclusions Patients had important information deficits when leaving the ED, and information transmission needs to be improved. The physician–patient discharge conversation seems an ideal opportunity for enhancing patient informedness. Standardisation of discharge procedures and training physicians in how to ensure that patients actually understand the information provided are needed.

  • Discharge information
  • information retention by patients
  • physician–patient communication
  • communications
  • data management

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The ethics approval was obtained by University Hospital of Bern, Switzerland.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Data are available on request from the coauthor: franziska tschan