Purpose: Communication problems are a major contributing factor to adverse events in hospitals.1 The contextual environment in small rural hospitals increases the importance of emergency department (ED) patient transfer communication quality. This study addresses the communication problems through the development and testing of ED quality measurement of interfacility patient transfer communication.
Methods: Input from existing measures, measurement and health care delivery experts, as well as hospital frontline staff was used to design and modify ED quality measures. Three field tests were conducted to determine the feasibility of data collection and the effectiveness of different training methods and types of partnerships. Measures were evaluated based on their prevalence, ease of data collection, and usefulness for internal and external improvement.
Findings: It is feasible to collect ED quality measure data. Different data sources, data collection, and data entry methods, training and partners can be used to examine hospital ED quality. There is significant room for improvement in the communication of patient information between health care facilities.
Conclusion: Current health care reform efforts highlight the importance of clear communication between organizations held accountable for patient safety and outcomes. The patient transfer communication measures have been tested in a wide range of rural settings and have been vetted nationally. They have been endorsed by the National Quality Forum, are included in the National Quality Measurement Clearinghouse supported by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), and are under consideration by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for future payment determinations beginning in calendar year 2013.