An email-based intervention to improve the number and timeliness of letters sent from the hospital outpatient clinic to the general practitioner: A pair-randomized controlled trial

Medlock, S., Parlevliet, J. L., Sent, D., Eslami, S., Askari, M., Arts, D. L., Hoekstra, J. B., de Rooij, S. E. & Abu-Hanna, A., 23-Oct-2017, In : PLoS ONE. 12, 10, 13 p., 0185812.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

  • Stephanie Medlock
  • Juliette L. Parlevliet
  • Danielle Sent
  • Saeid Eslami
  • Marjan Askari
  • Derk L. Arts
  • Joost B. Hoekstra
  • Sophia E. de Rooij
  • Ameen Abu-Hanna

Objective: Letters from the hospital to the general practitioner are important for maintaining continuity of care. Although doctors feel letters are important, they are often not written on time. To improve the number and timeliness of letters sent from the hospital outpatient department to the general practitioner using an email-based intervention evaluated in a randomized controlled trial.

Materials and methods: Users were interviewed to determine the requirements for the intervention. Due to high between-doctor variation at baseline, doctors were matched for baseline performance and pair-randomized. The effectiveness of the intervention was assessed using meta-analytic methods. The primary outcome was the number of patient visits which should have generated a letter that had a letter by 90 days after the visit. Satisfaction was assessed with an anonymous survey.

Results: The intervention consisted of a monthly email reminder for each doctor containing a list of his or her patients who were (over) due for a letter. Doctors in the intervention group had 21% fewer patient visits which did not have a letter by 90 days (OR = 5.7, p = 0.0020). Satisfaction with the system was very high.

Discussion: This study examines the effect of a simple reminder in absence of other interventions, and provides an example of an effective non-interruptive decision support intervention.

Conclusion: A simple email reminder improved the number and timeliness of letters from the outpatient department to the general practitioner, and was viewed as a useful service by its users.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0185812
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 23-Oct-2017



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