Timely and accurate communication between primary and secondary care is essential for delivering high-quality patient care. In this observational study published in Family Practice, Dinsdale et al., evaluated the content contained in both referral and response letters between primary and secondary care and measured this against the recommended national guidelines.
The study included 6603 patients from 68 general medical practices in Ireland, randomly selecting 100 patients from each practice and excluding patients without complete records. The authors analysed referral documentation and responses received from sub-specialists as well as discharge summaries from hospitalisations over a 2-year period, compared with established national standards. Although 82% of referral letters included current medications, only 30% of response letters and discharge summaries contained medication changes and 33% had medication lists.
The authors conclude that significant communication gaps exist between primary and secondary care and that further research is needed to understand how to address them.