Open access. The average person remembers less than half of the information provided by healthcare professionals during a medical visit.1 The situation is arguably most challenging for patients leaving the hospital, where acute illness, sleep deprivation and delirium add to the challenge of learning and memory.2 ,3 Indeed, research has shown that after hospital discharge, only 59.6% of patients are able to accurately describe their discharge diagnoses, and 43.9% can accurately recall follow-up appointments.4 Approximately one-third of patients have difficulty understanding their discharge medication regimen.5
It is not the patients' fault. Hospital resources and processes of care are oriented toward acute treatment. They are not as well designed to provide high-quality patient education in the hospital and across the transition home. Few hospitals have fully developed their capacity as ‘health-literate healthcare organisations’, which involves providing patients with information that is easy to understand and helping them navigate their care, particularly in high-risk situations like hospital discharge.6 ,7
In this context, giving patients a clinical summary to take home has the potential to serve as a valuable resource for patients and their caregivers. In theory, this document should clearly describe the patient's medical conditions, medications, other self-care instructions and next steps for follow-up and recovery. Yet, as shown in this issue of the journal,8 clinical summaries generated by electronic health records (EHRs) fall far short of this goal.