Safer Inter-Hospital Transfers by Improving Access to Health Information


Supporting Health Systems in Advancing Care Delivery


Using Digital Healthcare Tools to Improve Patient Safety

An enhanced health information exchange platform that improves workflow, interoperability, and visualization of data for inter-hospital transfers may reduce the morbidity and mortality seen today during inter-hospital transfers.

A better transition improves patient safety

Inter-hospital transfer is a common occurrence among patients with multiple chronic conditions who need specialized care not available in the transferring hospital. Such patients are routinely transferred between different clinical providers, hospitals, or healthcare systems. While critical to meeting the needs of patients, inter-hospital transfers can result in errors that reduce patient safety due to the lack of continuity of care. Communication and information exchange gaps are frequent during inter-hospital transfer, which can lead to poor patient outcomes. Dr. Stephanie Mueller and her team at Brigham and Women's Hospital recognize the vulnerabilities that can happen with the transfer of care for patients with chronic conditions and want to address health information exchange gaps during these transfers.

Communication is key for successful transfers

Building on their prior extensive research in inter-hospital transfer and health information technology innovation, Dr. Mueller and her research team are developing an interoperable platform to improve communication and access to clinical information for patients undergoing inter-hospital transfers. Using a user-centered design approach, this platform will identify essential clinical information in the originating hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) and optimize data visualization for clinicians involved in receiving patient transfers. The team will design the platform for three use cases during inter-hospital transfer, including patients transferred from hospitals within the same health system, hospitals in different systems with a common EHR, and hospitals in different systems with different EHRs. An evaluation of the platform will examine its impact on patient safety outcomes, such as medical errors and adverse events; its clinical use and perceived usability; and any facilitators and barriers to use from those who interact with the platform.

“Our hope is to develop and successfully implement a platform that improves information exchange of necessary clinical information that clinicians need to access to be able to safely care for patients at time of transfer. This platform is going to be user-friendly and accepted by frontline users because it's being developed and implemented with their input from the forefront.”-Dr. Stephanie Mueller

Patient safety must come first

The inter-hospital transfer platform has the potential to increase access to data for clinicians during transfers and ultimately improve safety for patients. Additionally, by leveraging existing data exchange standards and implementing the platform in various use cases, the platform should be easily adopted and able to scale across an organization and to other similar organizations. In the last year of the study, the team will develop a toolkit to support widespread dissemination and adoption. Overall, Dr. Mueller and her team hope that the lessons learned will inform successful and sustained adoption by other health care systems, thus broadly improving care provided to transferred patients.