Transition of Care from the Emergency Department to the Outpatient Setting: A Mixed-Methods Analysis
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Transition of Care from the Emergency Department to the Outpatient Setting: A Mixed-Methods Analysis


Introduction: The goal of this study was to characterize current practices in the transition of care between the emergency department and primary care setting, with an emphasis on the use of the electronic medical record (EMR). 

Methods: Using literature review and modified Delphi technique, we created and tested a pilot survey to evaluate for face and content validity. The final survey was then administered face-to-face at eight different clinical sites across the country. A total of 52 emergency physicians (EP) and 49 primary care physicians (PCP) were surveyed and analyzed. We performed quantitative analysis using chi-square test. Two independent coders performed a qualitative analysis, classifying answers by pre-defined themes (inter-rater reliability > 80%). Participants’ answers could cross several pre-defined themes within a given question. 

Results: EPs were more likely to prefer telephone communication compared with PCPs (30/52 [57.7%] vs. 3/49 [6.1%] P < 0.0001), whereas PCPs were more likely to prefer using the EMR for discharge communication compared with EPs (33/49 [67.4%] vs. 13/52 [25%] p < 0.0001). EPs were more likely to report not needing to communicate with a PCP when a patient had a benign condition (23/52 [44.2%] vs. 2/49 [4.1%] p < 0.0001), but were more likely to communicate if the patient required urgent follow-up prior to discharge from the ED (33/52 [63.5%] vs. 20/49 [40.8%] p = 0.029). When discussing barriers to effective communication, 51/98 (52%) stated communication logistics, followed by 49/98 (50%) who reported setting/environmental constraints and 32/98 (32%) who stated EMR access was a significant barrier.

Conclusion: Significant differences exist between EPs and PCPs in the transition of care process. EPs preferred telephone contact synchronous to the encounter whereas PCPs preferred using the EMR asynchronous to the encounter. Providers believe EP-to-PCP contact is important for improving patient care, but report varied expectations and multiple barriers to effective communication. This study highlights the need to optimize technology for an effective transition of care from the ED to the outpatient setting.

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