Care Transitions in the Treatment of the Elderly
According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the healthcare system is poorly organized to meet its current challenges. The delivery of care is often overly complex and uncoordinated, requiring steps and patient hand-offs that slow care and decrease rather than improve patient safety.
An IOM seminal report published in 2001, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, emphasizes that cumbersome processes waste resources, leave unaccountable voids in coverage, lead to loss of information, and fail to build on the strengths of all professionals involved to ensure that care is appropriate, timely, and safe. Right before and after discharge, there often is no one clearly in charge of the transition whom the patient may contact for guidance. Patients are often instructed to contact their primary care provider for follow-up issues or questions, whether or not the primary care provider had been involved in the hospitalization.
A recent study supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) showed that high-risk patient targeting, better communications, and better coordination of care and follow-up could potentially prevent some readmissions when transitioning patients from hospital to home.
In 2002, the American Geriatric Society (AGS) issued a Position Statement, Improving the Quality of Transitional Care for Persons with Complex Care Needs, which stressed that both the “sending” and “receiving” health professionals bear responsibility and accountability in this phase. Successful transitions require that there be both a uniform plan of care and procedure for communicating the following:
- An accessible medical record that contains a current problem list;
- A medication regimen;
- A list of allergies;
- Advance directives;
- Baseline physical and cognitive function; and
- Contact information for all professional and informal care providers.
Also, input must be solicited from informal care providers who are involved in the execution of the plan of care. The AGS recommends the use of a “coordinating” health professional who oversees both the sending and receiving aspects of the transition. This professional should be skilled in the identification of health status, assessment and management of multiple chronic conditions, managing medications, and collaboration with members of the interdisciplinary team and caregivers.
The QI Demonstration Project
According to SHM Immediate Past-President Jeanne Huddleston, MD, SHM has structured this demonstration project so that the three study sites in the Hartford Grant Group will implement identical clinical tools while they employ unique processes and procedures at each of the individual sites.
“The what needs to be in common across sites, but the how and who in the implementation will be individually tailored to each specific hospital environment,” she explains.
This is a real strength of the study because standardized interventions can be studied in varied and representative test environments. Dr. Huddleston also stresses that, “SHM envisions its role in quality management to be in the actual implementation realm—rather than in the development of new clinical guidelines. SHM seeks to know whether hospitalists [use] the same tools at different sites and understand their impact at each site.”