A randomized single-blind experiment was done in a medical subspecialty clinic in order to determine whether a flow-sheet type of summary medical record could validly serve as a means to communicate clinical information in the absence of the traditional medical record. Two groups of outpatient physician-patient encounters were compared: In the 68 study encounters (Group S), physicians were given a flow-sheet summary record with the option to receive the standard medical record if they desired; in the 27 control encounters (Group C), physicians were given the standard medical record plus the flow-sheet summary record. Fifty-nine per cent of study-group physicians did not choose to receive the full medical record. The study group was found not to differ (p = 0.013) from controls significantly with regard to the follow-up of clinical information as measured by pre- and post-encounter chart review. Physician providers in the study group were unable to detect by retrospective chart review overlooked clinical information with greater frequency than control group providers. We conclude that a flow-sheet type of summary medical record can serve as the sole source of clinical information in a substantial number of outpatient follow-up encounters in a medical subspecialty clinic without deterioration in the communication of clinical information.
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