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Barriers to discharge in an acute care medical teaching unit: a qualitative analysis of health providers’ perceptions

Authors Okoniewska B, Santana MJ, Groshaus H, Stajkovic S, Cowles J, Chakravorty D, Ghali WA

Received 13 August 2014

Accepted for publication 30 September 2014

Published 12 February 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 83—89

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JMDH.S72633

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Barbara Okoniewska,1 Maria Jose Santana,1 Horacio Groshaus,2 Svetlana Stajkovic,3 Jennifer Cowles,4 David Chakrovorty,5 William A Ghali1

1Department of Community Health Sciences, W21C Research and Innovation Centre, Institute of Public Health, 2Department of Internal Medicine, University of Calgary, 3Community Based Practice, 4Foothills Medical Centre, 5Department of Quality and Healthcare Improvement, Alberta Health Services, Calgary, AB, Canada

Background: The complex process of discharging patients from acute care to community care requires a multifaceted interaction between all health care providers and patients. Poor communication in a patient’s discharge can result in post hospital adverse events, readmission, and mortality. Because of the gravity of these problems, discharge planning has been emphasized as a potential solution. The purpose of this paper is to identify communication barriers to effective discharge planning in an acute care unit of a tertiary care center and to suggest solutions to these barriers.
Methods: Health care providers provided comments to a single open-ended question: “What are the communication barriers between the different health care providers that limit an effective discharge of patients from Unit 36?” We conducted qualitative thematic analysis by identifying themes related to communication barriers affecting a successful discharge process.
Results: Three broad themes related to barriers to the discharge process were identified: communication, lack of role clarity and lack of resources. We also identified two themes for opportunities for improvement, ie, structure and function of the medical team and need for leadership.
Conclusion: While it was evident that poor communication was an overarching barrier identified by health care providers, other themes emerged. In an effort to increase inter-team communication, “bullet rounds”, a condensed form of discharge rounds, were introduced to the medical teaching unit and occurred on a daily basis between the multidisciplinary team. To help facilitate provider-patient communication, electronic transfer of care summaries were suggested as a potential solution. To help role clarity, a discharge coordinator and/or liaison was suggested. Communication can be enhanced through use of electronic discharge summaries, bullet rounds, and implementation of a discharge coordinator(s). The findings from this study can be used to aid future researchers in devising appropriate discharging strategies that are focused around the patient and inter-health care provider communication.

Keywords: communication, discharge planning, continuum of care, acute care setting, barriers


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