Transferred patients fare better when hospitals communicate more, study finds

As hospital staffs work to improve the process of transferring patients between facilities, more communication between hospitals could improve patient care and reduce mortality, a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, found a significant amount of lost information, or changes in diagnosis, from the sending hospital to the receiving hospital.

To examine the importance of efficient communication between hospitals, the study focused on patients transferring from one hospital to another using data from more than 80,000 patients ages 18 or older in five states over a three-year period.

Researchers compared the patients' chronic diagnosis before and after transfer as well as the effect data-sharing had on information transfer and patient outcomes.

Looking at patients' electronic records, the researchers found 73 percent of patients gained a new diagnosis after they were transferred, while 47 percent of patients lost a diagnosis. Transfers where both hospitals used data-sharing mechanisms, including health information exchange, were linked to a lower rate of information loss and lower mortality, the study found.

"In this population — which is very high-risk — the ability of two hospitals to talk to each other has the potential to improve patient safety, make care much more cost- effective and reduce mortality," said study author Michael Usher, MD, PhD.

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