Communication often breaks down somewhere between hospital discharge and outpatient follow-up. At best, it was unclear who was responsible for post-discharge testing or home healthcare. At worst, primary care physicians didn’t know their patients had been admitted at all.
Why is this a problem for hospital administrators? Because nearly 80% of serious medical errors involve miscommunications during patient transfers, according to a 2014 article from Executive Insight.
Successful handoffs—between the hospital and ambulatory setting or even just during shift change—are key target points for efforts to reduce hospital readmissions and measurably improve outcomes. Further, from a patient-satisfaction standpoint, the weeks following hospital discharge may be filled with uncertainty and confusion. Beyond the heightened readmission risk, these crucial weeks may also be fraught with potential to seek treatment from other hospitals or providers.
Administrators are beginning to pin their hopes on patient navigation and transitions of care programs to improve outcomes and keep patients in network. At this early stage, however, strategies and results are all over the map. To help chart a course, we explored the emerging landscape and searched for best practices. These five steps will help you close the most dangerous communication gap in the hospital.