The patient-oriented discharge summary (PODS) is a simple tool that arms patients with 5 key pieces of information they need to know in order to effectively manage their health after a hospital discharge:

  • Signs and symptoms to watch out for
  • Medication instructions
  • Appointments
  • Routine and lifestyle changes
  • Telephone numbers and info to have handy

PODS was designed with the help of many patients and caregivers.

The period following discharge from hospital is a vulnerable time for patients.
Clearly communicating important information that patients need to know the moment they leave the hospital seems sensible, but challenging for several reasons:

  • Patients do not understand medical terms
  • Patients are not fluent in English
  • Patients cannot memorize verbal instructions
  • Patients are too stressed at time of illness to absorb information

PODS was designed with the help of patients, including those with language barriers, limited health literacy, and mental health issues; and in consideration of factors such as plain language, typography, visual aids and simplicity of layout

The vision of the PODS project is for every patient discharged from hospital to be armed with the 5 key pieces of information they need to know in order to effectively manage their health.

Q & A

Why is PODS needed?

The transition of care from hospital to community or from hospital staff to patient self-management can result in adverse events leading to avoidable ED visits, hospitalizations and poor patient outcomes. Studies show that adverse events can result from ineffective communication, limited patient literacy for reading drug labels or inability to recall medical instructions.

The problem is even more pronounced for patients with language barriers and limited health literacy. We know that in Toronto, over 60% speak languages other than English or French at home, and it is estimated that over 60% of Canadians have limited health literacy. This level of literacy decreases with age and with stress such as a hospitalization.

Most discharge summaries produced by hospitals are information dense documents laden with technical language meant mostly for the patient’s primary care provider, rather than the patient. These documents were not well suited for use as tools to transmit critical information from hospital to patient at time of discharge.

It has been shown that verbal communication alone is not as effective as when it is combined with other modes of communication. Visual aids have been shown to be particularly useful to non-English speakers and patients with low health literacy scores, who tend to have poorer recall of medications and instructions. It is also known that written materials are more effective when they are simple, use larger fonts, and focus on essential information. It also helpful to use short words and sentences, and write directly to the patient.

Who designed PODS?

PODS was designed by OpenLab at the University Health Network, with support by the Toronto Central LHIN (TC LHIN). The process to design PODS involved 56 patients and caregivers, 30 health-care personnel, 7 patient education professionals and 8 designers. The process of developing PODS has been published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine. Read more here.

How will PODS benefit patients?

Patients and their family will consistently receive information they need to know in order to effectively manage their health the moment they leave the hospital. PODS contains information most relevant and actionable for patients, presented in
an easily understandable and usable form.

How will pods benefit hospitals?

Hospitals are increasingly focused on improving the patient experience. Adopting PODS will help hospitals improve patient satisfaction scores, particularly around the communication of information to patients during transitions, which is a ‘big dot system indicator’ for the TC LHIN. PODS will complement other initiatives that aim to reduce hospital readmissions.

How will pods benefit health care providers?

PODS will help structure the conversation with patients, making it efficient to get most critical information across. PODS is also a communication aid that could used as part of a teach-back process.

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interested in taking part in this initiative?

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