Reasons for Interfacility Emergency Department Transfer and Care at the Receiving Facility

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The aims of this study were to (1) assess the reasons for pediatric interfacility transfers as identified by transferring providers and review the emergency medical care delivered at the receiving facilities and (2) investigate the emergency department (ED) care among the subpopulation of patients discharged from the receiving facility.


We performed a multicenter, cross-sectional survey of ED medical providers transferring patients younger than 18 years to 1 of 4 US tertiary care pediatric hospitals with a subsequent medical record review at the receiving facility. Referring providers completed surveys detailing reasons for transfer.


Eight hundred thirty-nine surveys were completed by 641 providers for 25 months. The median patient age was 5.7 years. Sixty-two percent of the patients required admission. The most common reasons for transfer as cited by referring providers were subspecialist consultation (62%) and admission to a pediatric inpatient (17%) or intensive care (6%) unit. For discharged patients, plain radiography (26%) and ultrasonography (12%) were the most common radiologic studies. Procedural sedation (16%) was the most common ED procedure for discharged patients, and 55% had a subspecialist consult at the receiving facility. Ten percent of interfacility transfers did not require subspecialty consult, ED procedure, radiologic study, or admission.


Approximately 4 of 10 interfacility transfers are discharged by the receiving facility, suggesting an opportunity to provide more comprehensive care at referring facilities. On the basis of the care provided at the receiving facility, potential interventions might include increased subspecialty access and developing both ultrasound and sedation capabilities.

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