Transitions of Care: The Presence of Written Interfacility Transfer Guidelines and Agreements for Pediatric Patients

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Abstract

Objective

Every year, emergency medical services agencies transport approximately 150,000 pediatric patients between hospitals. During these transitions of care, patient safety may be affected and contribute to adverse events when important clinical information is missing, incomplete, or inaccurate. Written interfacility transfer policies are one way to standardize procedures and facilitate communication between the hospitals leading to improved patient safety and satisfaction for children and families.

Methods

We assessed the presence and components of written interfacility transfer guidelines and agreements for pediatric patients via a survey sent to US hospital emergency department (ED) nurse managers during 2010 and 2013.

Results

Although there was an increase in the presence of written interfacility transfer guidelines and agreements, a third of hospitals did not have either by 2013, and only 50% had guidelines with all recommended pediatric components. Hospitals with medium and low ED pediatric patient volumes were less likely to have written guidelines or agreements compared with hospitals with high volume. Hospitals with advanced pediatric resources, such as a pediatric emergency care coordinator or EDs designated approved for pediatrics, were more likely to have guidelines or agreements than less resourced hospitals.

Conclusions

Although there was improvement over time, opportunities exist for increasing the presence of written interfacility transfer guidelines as well as agreements for pediatric patients. Further studies are needed to demonstrate whether improved delivery of patient care is associated with the presence of written interfacility transfer guidelines and agreements and to identify other elements in the process to ensure optimal pediatric patient care.

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