Physiotherapy discharge summaries - diversity concerning function and usefulness

Scientific article in Fysioterapeuten 9/2014.


Vibeke Bergsvik Stavang, spesialfysioterapeut, MSc, Førde sentralsjukehus, Helse Førde.

Eline Thornquist, fysioterapeut, dr.philos., professor, Høgskolen i Bergen.


Purpose: Investigate the usefulness of physiotherapy hospital discharge summaries for physiotherapists working in primary healthcare.

Material: This study was carried out with six physiotherapists from primary healthcare in an area limited geographically.

Method: Individual, semi structured interviews were conducted, focusing on the usefulness of one particular discharge summary and discharge summaries in general. The interviews were analyzed using systematic text condensation and a hermeneutic approach.

Results: Discharge summaries contribute to safety in treatment situations, in communication with next of kin and other professionals. It also contributes to maintain a hierarchy in the healthcare system and between diagnostic groups. Strong recommendations regarding further treatment were not appreciated. Concrete information about the functional capacity of the patients, previous treatment and further plans were highly valued by the informants, and written information was considered more useful than oral. Based on the entire material it is difficult to present a unifying term of quality for discharge summaries.

Conclusion: It is challenging for physiotherapists to display professional assessment in their written products, and clarify their competence.

Keywords: Physiotherapy, patient discharge summaries, patient records, continuity of patient care, inter-sectorial communication.

Full version in Norwegian