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"Clinic Letters: Prioritising Their Timely Accurate Creation"
Always seen as the poor relation of the discharge summary, outpatient clinic letters are now receiving more attention than ever. Previously their place at the bottom of the typing queue led to huge delays in their delivery often with backlogs of weeks or months. This added to and perpetuated the burden of lost sets of patient records and the ensuing associated clinical risk.
The value of these letters to hospital clinicians has been well known as the first port of call before meeting a patient for the first time. Unlike the handwritten part of the medical notes, they are legible, dated and it is usually known who has written them. Consequently, they are regarded as an accurate recording of what occurred during the patient visit from a medico-legal point of view. GPs too see them as the vital link to what happened to their patient whilst in someone else’s care and what the management plan is.
Their quality has always been variable but they always remained low on the radar of hospital managers. At last, their time has come. The importance of delivering a quality and timely discharge summary was coupled with its use by clinical coders to generate revenue for the inpatient stay. Now clinic letters are being financially tagged and the pressure is on to facilitate their production. In parallel, trusts are looking for novel ways to improve documentation and hence clinical safety, increase efficiency with a focus on staff productivity and reducing waste.
In this white paper, we review the stakeholder context of clinic letters and the technological tools that are revolutionising their production.
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