Introduction: Inter-hospital transfer (IHT) patients have higher in-hospital mortality, higher healthcare costs, and worse outcomes compared to non-transferred patients. Goals of care (GoC) discussions prior to transfer are necessary in patients at high risk for decline to ensure that the intended outcome of transfer is goal concordant. However, the frequency of these discussions is not well understood. This study was intended to assess the prevalence of GoC discussions in IHT patients with early mortality, defined as death within 72 hours of transfer, and prevalence of primary diagnoses associated with in-hospital mortality.
Methods: This was a retrospective study of IHT patients aged 18 and older who died within 72 hours of transfer to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center between October 1, 2016-October 2018. Documentation of GoC discussions within the electronic health record (EHR) prior to transfer was the primary outcome. We also assessed charts for primary diagnosis associated with in-hospital mortality, code status changes prior to death, in-hospital healthcare interventions, and frequency of palliative care consults.
Results: We included in this study a total of 298 patients, of whom only 10.1% had documented GoC discussion prior to transfer. Sepsis (29.9%), respiratory failure (28.2%), and cardiac arrest (27.5%) were the top three diagnoses associated with in-hospital mortality, and 73.2% of the patients transitioned to comfort measures prior to death. After transfer, 18.1% of patients had invasive procedures performed with 9.7% undergoing major surgery. Palliative care consultation occurred in only 4.4%.
Conclusion: The majority (89.9%) of IHT patients with early mortality did not have GoC discussion documented within EHR prior to transfer, although most transitioned to comfort measures prior to their deaths, highlighting that additional work is needed in this area.