Effective Procedures For Patient Transfers In Health Care Units

Lack of Communication Leads to Risks for Patients

Patients with longer treatments are sometimes required to be transferred from one health care unit to another. Sometimes even to the different sectors like from health care unit to care taking home also. Such transfer of patients between different health-care sectors need to carried with an effective management of the transfer procedures. As general practitioner I have observed many cases in which patients are transferred to my unit very causally or with no responsibility1. In such cases I have faced many difficulties while taking care of those patients. In United Kingdom there is a provision of different policies or regulation to be followed by every health care-taker in different sector of the hospitality industry. Specially in case of older homeless people extra care has to be taken while transferring them form one health care unit to another one as they have no families to look after them while their transfer. In such cases general practitioners are the only responsible persons to take care of their transfer. In United Kingdom continuity of patient-care at the time of their transfer from one health care unit or sector to another one is national priority. Nation has shown its concern for such issues in health-care sector and a number of interventions have been designed, and tested to improve the safety and quality of such health-care transfers of patients. Different activities are incorporated in many of the successful interventions like medication reconciliation, discharge planning, proper discharge summaries, electronic notification of discharge, web-based access to the information related to the discharge operations, and many more similar to these2.

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In recent time while practicing my general practices I came across this case in which a dementia patient was admitted in the hospital I work in and presented to me with Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) symptoms. Dementia is referred as an overall nomination that describes a group of symptoms which are associated with a consistent decline in the memory of patient. In this case I came to know that the patient is transferred from a care home and the medical administration record (MAR) chart which was sent to the hospital from the care home did not include any insulin in the description provided in the chart. In the treatment of DKA insulin is of the most essential concern for any practitioner and the MAR presented to me was indicating no insulin in the medial administration report. DKA is a potential fatal hyperglycemic crisis that generally occurs in diabetic patients of both the stages 1 and 2. Still diabetic patients in stage 1 are more likely to suffer from this problem3. As a practitioner I know that DKA causes due to insufficient production of insulin in the body. Therefore, insulin is one of the most preferred provisions to such patients and MAR chart missing the insulin shocked me. This shows a carelessness of the care home while taking care of the patient. Also while comparing the summary care record presented by her GP and the Mar presented to me, I realised that insulin was the essential or indeed part of her medication. However, none of the medication issued by her GP including any form of insulin. In order to know the exact situation of patient I needed to investigate the case more and in the investigation  I got to know that the patient was recently transferred from one another care home to the last one just before 3 days, and now she is getting transferred in our hospital. During this transfer GP for the treatment was also changed but the health care report of the patient including her medication and routine check-up reports were electronically transferred to the new practitioner.  But still new GP did not issue any of the previous medication by assuming that the patient has had the enough dose of it. While investigating this transfer I came to know one more shocking finding that the new GP haven’t seen the patient since she moved into this new care home. Another finding of this investigation shows that the previous GP had sent a copy of patient’s MAR chart and her medication to the last care home. This MAR didn’t include any insulin and thus no insulin was sent to the new house. This incident demonstrates a lack of communication between two care homes while transferring a patient from one to another. This makes the staff members of new care home unaware for the fact that the patient is diabetic and they didn’t even inquire for the insulin.

Importance of Proper Communication and Information Sharing

This incident made me to realise the importance of various incorporate activities need to be followed while transferring a patient from one care unit to another one. In this context I get to identify some serious issues while making a transfer of a patient. I realised that a proper procedure must be followed strictly while making such transfers and communication is the key issue in this type of transfers. A proper communication channel has to be followed and required information related to the patient and the treatment has to be passed from one care unit to the other one while transferring the patient. In such cases the miscommunication may lead to the wrong treatment and can cause potential harm to the patient’s health. To overcome these problems must be a provision of some standards to be followed by the practitioners while making such transfers of patients.

All my finding in this having the common issues of miscommunication suggest that the communication system of health care units or sector while discharging a patient has to be reviewed and must be renewed effectively. In 2012 and 2013 a report of NHS states that around 10,000 people reported to the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) of patient safety incidents that were related to the discharge operations of different health care units. This process of discharging a patient from secondary to primary, social or community care home is much complicated and multifactorial. In 33% cases of the 10000 reports it is observed that the communication is an area of risk3.

During transfer of a patient general practitioners as well as the local pharmacists play an important role in a safe transfer of the patient. These local community pharmacists can offer an expertise in therapeutics, accessibility, drug problem related skills, and face-to-face contact4. In a recent report issued by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) stats that keeping patients safe while transferring them from one care to another, right information about the medicines and proper guidance on the treatment information should be transferred along with the patient5.

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Today there are different interventions to take care of patient transfer. One of these interventions includes electronic transmission of information related to the treatment of patient. In this intervention the information related to the medication of patient is transmitted to the new care home and the general practitioner in new care home. Community pharmacists provide a follow-up consultation to the new GP tailored to the needs of individual patient. In such interventions hospital staff members use an IT platform to make a better coordination of care while discharging the patient. In a study it is stated that community pharmacists contact most of the patients and as a result of this direct contact of community pharmacists help patients to avoid readmission and staying in hospital for a shorter time period. To establish an effective communication while transferring a patient there are some guidelines provided by National institute for Health and Care Excellence6. According to these guidelines, there are few things to be keep in mind to make an effective communication while discharging a patient from a health care unite regardless its type of unit like hospital, social care, and community care7. This guideline suggests including, but not limited to, following details while transferring, contact of patient and their general practitioner, other persons identified by the patient, nominated community pharmacy, information about known drug allergies, reaction to different medicines and type or reactions. In the MAR sheet a clear list of the medicines patient taking currently as well as newly prescribed medicines must be provided8. This list of medicines should include name, form, strength, timing, dose frequency and duration, and procedure of what and how the medicines are to be taken. Along with this information, the communication must also include the time and duration of the last dose with the information about last information shared with the family members or carers9.

The Role of General Practitioners and Community Pharmacists

This particular case made me to find out what information is needed to be compulsory to share at the time of discharging a patient and I did share all the information related to the patient as well as her treatment progress in while she stayed in the hospital under my supervision. GP should personally handover all the information to her family members and also shared the same information with her new GP and care taker at the time she was discharging from the hospital10. While sharing this information I got a satisfactory feeling about my responsibility as a practitioner. Being a practitioner GP should recommend that it should be made compulsory ton provide the essential information related to the patient and their treatment while transferring them from one care unit to another11. This experience made me identify some key information that should be shared by the GP at the time or discharging their patient. Similar to this case while discharging her GP should share details of medication changes with care home, local chemist, and new GP, a clear discharge summary including both new and existing medication details, new MAR chart providing clear instruction for regular medications, and also discussed and highlighted the diabetic problem, type of insulin to be provided along with its management to the care home where she was going to be transferred from this hospital12.

In the end I would conclude that the case made to understand the importance health care interventions and the information essential to share with the patient or new GP while discharging a patient. While investigating and understanding the problem and its alternative I got to know about different initiatives taken by the NIHCE to make a safe transfer of patient especially older homeless patients.


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Health & Social Care Joint Unit and Change Agents Team. Discharge from hospital: pathway, process and practice. 2003 January 28 [cited 2018 June 24]. Available from: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130104194213/https://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_4003252

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