An evaluation of the quality of discharge summaries from the general paediatric wards at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa

  • S Singh
  • F Solomon
  • S.A. Madhi
  • Z Dangor
  • S.G. Lala


Background. Hospital discharge summaries are deemed to be an essential part of the medical record in South Africa, but formal assessment of their quality is rarely undertaken. At Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (CHBAH) in Johannesburg, medical admission notes (bedletters) are difficult to retrieve from the hospital archives and the discharge summary is often the only readily available medical record that documents details of the hospital admission.

Objectives. To determine the proportion of discharge summaries that were appropriately completed for children admitted to the general paediatric wards at CHBAH.

Methods. A retrospective review of discharge summaries completed for children admitted from 1 May to 31 July 2016 was undertaken. The completeness of the following demographic and clinical variables was assessed: patient identifiers, hospital outcome, HIV infection status and anthropometric status. The documentation of correct International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th revision (ICD-10) codes was assessed in children diagnosed with any form of lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI), which is the commonest diagnosis recorded in hospitalised children at CHBAH.

Results. Discharge summaries were available for 1 148 (78.3%) of 1 466 children admitted during the study period. For completed discharge summaries, 80.1 - 93.3% of patient identifiers and 91.4% of patient outcomes were appropriately completed. HIV exposure was documented in 84.7% of summaries. Anthropometric parameters, including weight and length/height at admission and discharge weight, were appropriately completed in 91.4%, 70.9% and 50.0% of summaries, respectively. The ICD-10 code for children with LRTI was appropriately recorded by medical staff in 338 (67.2%) of 503 cases. ICD‑10 codes and anthropometric parameters, which are important clinical parameters in the paediatric follow-up consultation, were both correctly recorded for only 21.6% of children who required follow-up clinical consultations at CHBAH.

Conclusions. Compared with similar studies, both the rate of completion and the quality of completed discharge summaries were modest in this tertiary academic teaching hospital. As discharge summaries are crucial medical documents, interventions to improve their completeness rate and quality need to be developed.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135