Interhospital Transfer: Transfer Processes and Patient Outcomes
Though often undertaken to provide patients with specialized care, interhospital transfer (IHT) is associated with worse outcomes for select patients. Certain aspects of the transfer process have been suggested as contributors to these outcomes. We performed a retrospective cohort study including patients ≥ 18 years who underwent IHT to a tertiary care hospital between January 2005 and September 2013. We examined the association between “weekend” transfer, “nighttime” transfer, “time delay” between transfer acceptance and arrival, and admission team “busyness” on the day of transfer, and patient outcomes, including transfer to the intensive care unit (ICU) within 48 hours and 30-day mortality. We utilized multivariable logistic regression models, adjusting for patient characteristics. Secondary analyses examined detailed timing of transfer and evaluated 30-day mortality stratified by service of transfer. Among the 24,352 patients who underwent IHT, the nighttime transfer was associated with increased adjusted odds of ICU transfer (odds ratio [OR] 1.54; 95% CI 1.38, 1.72) and 30-day mortality (OR 1.16; 95% CI 1.01, 1.35). Secondary analyses confirmed the association between nighttime transfer and ICU transfer throughout the week and demonstrated that Sunday (and trend towards Friday) night transfers had increased 30-day mortality, as compared with Monday daytime transfer. Stratified analyses demonstrated a significant association between transfer characteristics and adjusted odds of 30-day mortality among cardiothoracic and gastrointestinal surgical service transfers. Our findings suggest high acuity patients have worse outcomes during off-peak times of transfer and during times of high care team workload. Further study is needed to identify underlying reasons to explain these associations and devise potential solutions.