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Pediatrics. 1992 Jun;89(6 Pt 2):1204-8.

Standardized instructions: do they improve communication of discharge information from the emergency department?

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, PA.


To determine whether standardized instructions enhance communication of discharge information, we provided 197 parents of children in whom otitis media was diagnosed with one of three types of instruction at the time of discharge from a pediatric emergency department: (1) instruction by individual housestaff and medical students after consultation with an attending physician (control group); (2) standardized verbal instructions given by housestaff and students trained in their use (verbal group); or (3) the same instructions given to the verbal group, together with a type-written copy of the information to take home (verbal + written group). Prior to leaving the emergency department and, again, by phone, 1 and 3 days later, parents were questioned concerning the prescribed medication's name, dose, frequency, and duration of administration (medication data), three signs of improvement, and eight signs indicating the need for medical advice (worrisome signs). The mean percentage of correct responses per parent in each group was computed for each information category. Both at exit interview and at follow-up, parents receiving either form of standardized instructions showed significantly greater knowledge of information related to their child's illness than did controls. Information regarding medication data was more likely to be communicated to parents in all groups than were signs of improvement or worrisome signs. The addition of written instructions to standardized verbal instructions did not improve parental recall of discharge information.

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