Safety of Rural Nursing Home-to-Emergency Department Transfers: Improving Communication and Patient Information Sharing Across Settings

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The “siloed” approach to healthcare delivery contributes to communication challenges and to potential patient harm when patients transfer between settings. This article reports on the evaluation of a demonstration in 10 rural communities to improve the safety of nursing facility (NF) transfers to hospital emergency departments by forming interprofessional teams of hospital, emergency medical service, and NF staff to develop and implement tools and protocols for standardizing critical interfacility communication pathways and information sharing. We worked with each of the 10 teams to document current communication processes and information sharing tools and to design, implement, and evaluate strategies/tools to increase effective communication and sharing of patient information across settings. A mixed methods approach was used to evaluate changes from baseline in documentation of patient information shared across settings during the transfer process. Study findings showed significant improvement in key areas across the three settings, including infection status and baseline mental functioning. Improvement strategies and performance varied across settings; however, accurate and consistent information sharing of advance directives and medication lists remains a challenge. Study results demonstrate that with neutral facilitation and technical support, collaborative interfacility teams can assess and effectively address communication and information sharing problems that threaten patient safety.

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