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Discharge Communication: A Multi-Institutional Survey of Internal Medicine Residents’ Education and Practices



To characterize residents' practices around hospital discharge communication and their exposure to transitions-of-care instruction in graduate medical education (GME).


In 2019, internal medicine residents at 7 academic medical centers completed a cross-sectional survey reporting the types of transitions-of-care instruction they experienced during GME training and the frequency with which they performed 6 key discharge communication practices. The authors calculated a mean discharge communication score for each resident, and, using multiple logistic regression, they analyzed the relationship between exposure to types of educational experiences and discharge communication practices residents reported they performed frequently (> 60% of time). The authors used content analysis to explore factors that motivated residents to change their discharge practices.


The response rate was 63.5% (613/966). Resident discharge communication practices varied. Notably, only 17.0% (n = 104) reported routinely asking patients to "teach-back" or explain their understanding of the discharge plans. The odds of frequently performing key discharge communication practices were greater if residents received instruction based on observation of and feedback regarding their communication (adjusted odds ratio 1.73; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.07-2.81) or if they received explicit on-rounds teaching (adjusted OR 1.46; 95% CI, 1.04-2.23). In open-ended comments, residents reported that experiencing adverse patient events at some point in the postdischarge continuum was a major impetus for practice change.


This study exposes gaps in hospital discharge communication with patients, highlights the benefits of workplace-based instruction on discharge communication skills, and reveals the influence of adverse events as a source of hidden curricula. The results suggest that developing faculty to incorporate transitions-of-care instruction in their rounds teaching and integrating experiences across the postdischarge continuum into residents' education may foster physicians-in-training who are champions of effective transitions of care within the fragmented health care system.

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