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Interventions to improve patient safety in transitional care – a review of the evidence


When a patient’s transition from the hospital to home is less than optimal, the repercussions can be far-reaching – hospital readmission, adverse medical events, and even mortality. Elderly, especially frail older patients with complex health care problems appear to be a group particularly at risk for adverse events in general, and during transitions across health providers in particular. We undertook a systematic review to identify interventions designed to improve patient safety during transitional care of the elderly, with a particular focus on discharge interventions. We searched the literature for qualitative and quantitative studies on the subject published over the past ten years. The review revealed a set of potential intervention types aimed at the improvement of communication that contribute to safe transitional care. Intervention types included professionoriented interventions (e.g. education and training), organisational/culture interventions (e.g. transfer nurse, discharge protocol, discharge planning, medication reconciliation, standardized discharge letter, electronic tools), or patient and next of kin oriented interventions (e.g. patient awareness and empowerment, discharge support). Results strongly indicate that elderly discharged from hospital to the community will benefit from targeted interventions aimed to improve transfer across healthcare settings. Future interventions should take into account multi-component and multi-disciplinary interventions incorporating several single interventions combined.