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Prospective economic evaluation of an electronic discharge communication tool: analysis of a randomised controlled trial

15 Dec 2017


To complete an economic evaluation within a randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing the use of an electronic discharge communication tool (eDCT) compared with usual care.


Patients being discharged from a single tertiary care centre’s internal medicine Medical Teaching Units.


Between January 2012 and December 2013, 1399 patients were randomised to a discharge mechanism. Forty-five patients were excluded from the economic evaluation as they did not have data for the index hospitalisation cost; 1354 patients contributed to the economic evaluation.


eDCT generated at discharge containing structured content on reason for admission, details of the hospital stay, treatments received and follow-up care required. The control group was discharged via traditional dictation methods.

Primary and secondary outcome measures

The primary economic outcome was the cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) gained. Secondary outcomes included the cost per death avoided and the cost per readmission avoided.


The average transcription cost was $C22.28 per patient, whereas the estimated cost of the eDCT was $C13.33 per patient. The cost per QALY gained was $C239 933 in the eDCT arm compared with usual care due to the very small gains in effectiveness and approximately $C800difference in resource utilisation costs. The bootstrap analyses resulted in eDCT being more effective and more costly in 29.2% of samples, less costly and more effective in 29.2% of samples, less effective and more costly in 23.9% of samples and finally, less costly and less effective in 17.7% of samples.


The eDCT reduced per patient costs of the generation of discharge summaries. The bootstrap estimates demonstrate considerable uncertainty supporting the finding of neutrality reported in the clinical component of the RCT. The immediate transcription cost savings and previously documented provider and patient satisfaction may increase the impetus for organisations to invest in such systems, provided they have a foundation of eHealth infrastructure and readiness.

Trial registration number


Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open