Primary-Care Physicians Weigh in on Quality of Care Transitions


A new study on transitions of care gives hospitalists a view from the other side.

Published recently online in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, the authors surveyed 22 primary-care physician leaders in California-based post-discharge clinics and asked them about ways to improve care transitions.

Physicians' responses focused on several areas that need work, most notably aligned financial incentives, regulations to standardize interoperability among electronic health records (EHR) and data sharing, and more opportunities for professional networking, the authors note.

Although the qualitative study takes a broad view of the healthcare system, its lead author says hospitalists should view "systems change" as a long-term goal achievable via incremental improvements that can start now.

"National policy change is needed to move the needle for the whole health system," says hospitalist Oanh Kieu Nguyen, MD, MAS, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "But locally, you can innovate within these domains and start to make changes to improve practice settings more immediately. National policy to align financial incentives and improve EHR interoperability will be key to helping local changes take hold and spread across systems. Otherwise, there will continue to be a lot of variability and fragmentation around care transitions on a national level."

Dr. Nguyen, who has practiced as both a hospitalist and PCP, says that because policies and studies on post-discharge care transitions primarily have focused on the hospital perspective, it is important to gain an understanding of the primary-care point of view.

"As a hospitalist, it's really easy to get caught up in just wanting to get patients teed up and sent home. Once they're out, we think they're no longer really our problem," Dr. Nguyen adds. "It's easy to forget that primary care is an important part of the other side of the equation. The way our healthcare system is designed doesn't really give physicians an incentive to look at the whole picture of a patient across all the environments they're in."

Many hospitalists are sharing their challenges and successes in care transitions through HMX. Join the conversation now.

Visit our website for more information on transitions of care.

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