An intermittent server issue has resulted in almost 6,000 discharge summaries not being sent to GPs.
Discharge summaries generated for some patients who attended a hospital in Canterbury, the West Coast and South Canterbury between 18 May and 26 June were delayed due to an intermittent fault in the servers which sends data from the hospitals to a patient's GP.
A discharge summary provides a written summary of a patient's hospital admission. This includes symptoms, treatment, medications and instructions on any follow up required. In Canterbury, most patients also receive a printed copy of this information to take home with them, and the usual process is that an electronic copy will be sent to their GP practice at the same time.
Due to an intermittent issue affecting three (out of five) of the Health Connect South servers, these summaries were not automatically sent.
The issue was discovered on Friday 26 June. Since then all of the un-sent discharge summaries have been identified, and have been sent to each GP to review.
A process to determine how this issue occurred and identify changes to systems and processes required to prevent a recurrence, is underway.
Spokesperson for Canterbury District Health Board, chief medical officer, Dr Nigel Millar, said the system failure was regrettable. "We are very sorry that this issue occurred and apologise to everyone impacted – particularly GPs, who are now receiving a large number of discharge summaries to review at once," he said. "If any patients are adversely affected by this delay I will be in touch with them individually," Dr Millar said.
"Electronic discharge summaries have been around for a number of years and have greatly improved the speed and legibility of information transfer between hospital clinicians and primary care. On this occasion an as-yet-unknown problem with a number of our servers has caused this regrettable delay.
"I would like to assure the public of Canterbury the West Coast and South Canterbury, that we are taking this issue very seriously and will be putting in place safe-guards to reduce the chance of anything similar happening in the future," Dr Millar said.
Frequently asked questions:
What is a discharge summary?
A discharge summary provides a written summary of a patient's hospital admission. This includes symptoms, treatment, medications and instructions on any follow up required.
How was the problem identified?
Calls were received from a few GPs on Friday 26 June who hadn't received discharge summaries for their patients who had been discharged from hospital.
How did the problem occur for so long without someone noticing?
As the problem was intermittent and some discharge summaries were being sent as per usual, it took some time to identify that there was an issue over the six week period.
How many patients discharge summaries weren't sent?
In total, 5,927 discharge summaries weren't sent.
This total comprised:
Is an electronic discharge summary the only way a GP can find out about what's been happening with their patients who have been in hospital?
No. In Canterbury most patients receive a printed copy of their discharge summary when they leave hospital. This can be taken to any subsequent GP visits. The electronic patient discharge summaries are also stored on the HealthOne patient record, however, GPs have to know to look there – and without knowledge of the server failure, GPs would not be expected to go looking for their patient's electronic discharge summary as they are usually sent to them directly.
The process of providing patients with a printed discharge summary varies between DHBs, and their availability is also dependent on them being completed by the time a patient is ready to go home.
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