Jennifer Myers, MD, FHM, assistant professor of clinical medicine and patient-safety officer at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, is a Project BOOST participant who spearheaded a process change to improve the quality of her facility’s discharge summary, along with accompanying resident education.7 The discharge summary recently was integrated with the hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system.
“We’ve gone from dictating the discharge summary to an electronic version completed by the hospitalist, with prompts for key components of the summary, which allows us to create summaries more efficiently—ideally on the day of discharge, but usually within 48 hours,” Dr. Myers says. “We previously researched whether teaching made a difference in the quality of discharges; we found that it did. So we look forward to standardizing our teaching approach around this important topic for all residents.”
Another care-transitions innovation receiving a lot of attention from the government and the private sector is Project RED (Re-Engineered Discharge), led by Brian Jack, MD, vice chair of the department of family medicine at Boston Medical Center. The Project RED research group develops and tests strategies to improve the hospital discharge process to promote patient safety and reduce rehospitalization rates.
“We used re-engineering tools borrowed from other fields, brought together experts from all over the hospital, divided up the whole discharge process, and identified key principles,” Dr. Jack explains. The resulting discharge strategy is reflected in an 11-item checklist of discrete, mutually reinforcing components, which have been shown to reduce rehospitalization rates by 32% while raising patient satisfaction.8 It includes comprehensive discharge and after-hospital plans, a nurse discharge advocate, and a medication reconciliation phone call to the patient. A virtual “patient advocate,” a computerized avatar named Louise, is now being tested. If successful, it will allow patients to interact with a touch-screen teacher of the after-care plan who has time to work at the patient’s pace.
Technology and Transitions
Informatics can be a key player in facilitating care transitions, says Anuj Dalal, MD, a hospitalist and instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He is using one of his hospital’s technological strengths—a well-established, firewall-protected e-mail system—to help improve the discharge process.
“We decided to try to improve awareness of test results pending at the time of discharge,” Dr. Dalal explains. “We created an intervention that automatically triggers an e-mail with the finalized test results to the responsible providers. The intervention creates a loop of communication between the inpatient attending and the PCP. What we hope to show in our research over the next year or two is whether the intervention actually increases awareness of test results by providers.”
One thing to remember is that “all kinds of things can go wrong with care transitions,” no matter the size of the institution, the experience of the staff, or technological limitations, says Vineet Chopra, MD, FACP, a hospitalist at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. “The problems of transitions vary from place to place, day to day, time of day, shift changes; and let’s not forget physician extenders and the other members of the healthcare team,” he says. “The more complicated the team, the more complicated the information needing to be handed off becomes.”