Decoding the Discharge Summary: Understanding the Accuracy of Diagnoses

Hello, clinical coding enthusiasts! Today, we’ll be exploring an issue close to the heart of healthcare delivery: the accuracy of diagnoses recorded in discharge summaries. If you’ve ever wondered about the reliability of these summaries, you’re in for an enlightening read!

Why Discharge Summaries Matter

One of the essential functions of a discharge summary is to provide an accurate picture of a patient’s diagnoses. However, discrepancies in these summaries can lead to a warped clinical picture, potential mismanagement of the patient’s condition, diminished quality of care, and even a higher risk of re-admission. Given these implications, researchers Rosy Tsopra and her team set out to measure the accuracy of diagnoses in discharge summaries.

The Study in Detail

Conducted in three respiratory wards in a large UK NHS Teaching Hospital, this prospective cohort study involved comparing the diagnoses recorded in a discharge summary to a reference list of diagnoses (which was closest to the patient’s actual state based on consultant knowledge, patient records, and lab investigations).

For an objective comparison, all diagnoses were encoded using a standardized terminology, ICD-10. Researchers then measured the inaccuracy rate of primary diagnoses and all diagnoses in discharge summaries, and assessed if it correlated with the type of disease, the number of diagnoses, or the length of patient stay.

The Revealing Results

Out of 110 discharge summaries, 107 were analyzed. Hold onto your seats because this is where it gets interesting: the mean inaccuracy rate per discharge summary was a whopping 55%! Half the summaries had primary diagnoses that were wrong, inaccurate, missing, or misrecorded as secondary diagnoses. The inaccuracy rate showed a correlation with the type of disease but not with the number of diagnoses or length of patient stay.

The Vital Takeaway

These results bring to light a significant issue: diagnoses are not being accurately recorded in discharge summaries. This has critical implications for the continuity of care for patients transitioning from hospital to home or other care settings.

The Path Ahead

It’s crucial that we, as a healthcare community, acknowledge this problem and work towards measuring and improving discharge summary quality. The question we need to ask ourselves is: how can we harness technology, education, and better communication practices to ensure the accuracy of diagnoses in discharge summaries?

As always, stay tuned for more discussions on such thought-provoking issues in healthcare. And remember, every step towards improvement begins with awareness. Until next time, keep exploring, questioning, and learning!


Tsopra R, Wyatt JC, Beirne P, Rodger K, Callister M, Ghosh D, Clifton IJ, Whitaker P, Peckham D. Level of accuracy of diagnoses recorded in discharge summaries: A cohort study in three respiratory wards. J Eval Clin Pract. 2019 Feb;25(1):36-43. doi: 10.1111/jep.13020. Epub 2018 Aug 14. PMID: 30105889.

Related Articles


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.