Multi-professional communication for older people in transitional care: a review of the literature

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Aims and objectives.To synthesise research-reporting literature about multi-professional communication between health and social care professionals within transitional care for older people, with particular attention on outcomes, enabling contextual factors and constraints.Background.Older adults experience high rates of morbidity and health care usage, and frequently transit between health services, and community and social care providers. These transition episodes place elders at increased risk of adverse incidents due to poor communication of information. Integrated multi-professional models of care built on enhanced communication have been widely promoted as a strategy to improve transitional care for older people. However, a range of findings exist in the literature to guide service providers and researchers.Design.Comprehensive literature search and review strategies were employed to identify, describe and synthesise relevant studies. Ten databases were searched in addition to Google Scholar.Conclusions.Specified discharge worker roles, multi-professional care coordination teams, and information technology systems promote better service satisfaction and subjective quality of life for older people when compared with standard hospital discharge. Improved multi-professional communication reduces rates of re-admission and length of stay indicating greater cost effectiveness and efficiency for the health and social care systems. Systems of care emphasizing information exchange, education and negotiation between stakeholders facilitate communication in transitional care contexts for older adults. Conversely, lack of dialogue and lack of understanding of others’ roles are barriers to communication in transitional care.Implications for practice.Enhanced multi-professional communication, transitional pathways, and role clarity are required to improve the quality, sustainability and responsiveness of aged care into the future. Recommendations for further research include: (i) Investigation of pathways promoting person-centred care planning including the older person, their family and relevant practitioners; (ii) Development of interventions aimed at improving multi-professional communication and transitional aged care with marginalised and socially disadvantaged elders on indicators of equity and access; (iii) Investigation of changing roles for practitioners in multi-professional teams with a focus on community-based teams including nurses specialising in aged care and general practice.

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