Challenges to inter-departmental coordination of patient transfers: a workflow perspective

Int J Med Inform. 2010 Feb;79(2):112-22. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2009.11.001. Epub 2009 Dec 14.


Objective: The purpose of this study is to identify challenges to inter-departmental coordination activities that affect patient transfer workflow and to provide socio-technical requirements for the design of technologies to better support patient transfer workflow.

Design: We conducted our study in two clinical and one non-clinical department at a major academic hospital. We utilized qualitative data collection techniques including observations of patient transfer practices of the different departments and interviews with departmental staff to collect data on the inter-departmental coordination activities and its effect on patient transfer workflow.

Results: We identified three inter-departmental challenges that affected the patient transfer workflow: ineffective inter-departmental interactions, ineffective information handoffs, and ineffectiveness of current information technologies.

Discussion: To address these challenges, we discuss three socio-technical design requirements that designers need to pay attention to while developing inter-departmental healthcare information systems. To ensure effective inter-departmental coordination, the systems should incorporate features that can support the mediating role of integrators, the collaborative balancing of goals, and the collaborative prioritization of resources.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / standards*
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Transfer / organization & administration*
  • Patient Transfer / statistics & numerical data