The content of pediatric hospital discharge instructions is highly variable. This study aimed to describe the characteristics, accessibility per patient literacy level and language, and national guideline adherence of pediatric hospital discharge instructions.
This retrospective study assessed discharge instructions at a tertiary children’s hospital. Patient and instruction characteristics, including patient health literacy level, grade level of instructions, patient language preference, and language of instructions were collected via chart review and electronic medical record query. Standard admission processes assessed health literacy via Brief Health Literacy Screening. The association between demographic and clinical characteristics and adherence to Solutions for Patient Safety guidelines was analyzed by using unadjusted and adjusted analysis methods.
Of 240 discharge instructions, 25% were missing at least 1 recommended content area: signs of worsening, where to seek help, or medication reconciliation. A patient health literacy deficit was identified in 15%; the mean grade level of instructions was 10.1. Limited English proficiency was reported among 17% one quarter of whom received language concordant instructions. Use of discharge instruction templates and discharge services were associated with improved guideline adherence (P <.001). Almost one-half of the study population had a complex medical history, which was associated with decreased guideline adherence (P = .04).
One-quarter of discharge instructions for this predominantly medically complex population failed to meet national standards. Accessibility was often limited by the reading grade level or discordant language of instructions. Templates may be a valuable tool for improving discharge instruction content, accessibility, and adherence to national guidelines.