Importance: Poor health care provider communication across health care settings may lead to adverse outcomes.
Objective: To determine the frequency with which inpatient providers report communicating directly with outpatient providers and whether direct communication was associated with 30-day readmissions.
Design: We conducted a single-center prospective study of self-reported communication patterns by discharging health care providers on inpatient medical services from September 2010 to December 2011 at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Setting: A 1000-bed urban, academic center.
Participants: There were 13 954 hospitalizations in this time period. Of those, 9719 were for initial visits. After additional exclusions, including patients whose outpatient health care provider was the inpatient attending physician, those who had planned or routine admissions, those without outpatient health care providers, those who died in the hospital, and those discharged to other healthcare facilities, we were left with 6635 hospitalizations for analysis.
Interventions: Self-reported communication was captured from a mandatory electronic discharge worksheet field. Thirty-day readmissions, length of stay (LOS), and demographics were obtained from administrative databases.
Data extraction: We used multivariable logistic regression models to examine, first, the association between direct communication and patient age, sex, LOS, race, payer, expected 30-day readmission rate based on diagnosis and illness severity, and physician type and, second, the association between 30-day readmission and direct communication, adjusting for patient and physician-level factors.
Results: Of 6635 included hospitalizations, successful direct communication occurred in 2438 (36.7%). The most frequently reported reason for lack of direct communication was the health care provider's perception that the discharge summary was adequate. Predictors of direct communication, adjusting for all other variables, included patients cared for by hospitalists without house staff (odds ratio [OR], 1.81 [95% CI, 1.59-2.08]), high expected 30-day readmission rate (OR, 1.18 [95% CI, 1.10-1.28] per 10%), and insurance by Medicare (OR, 1.35 [95% CI, 1.16-1.56]) and private insurance companies (OR, 1.35 [95% CI, 1.18-1.56]) compared with Medicaid. Direct communication with the outpatient health care provider was not associated with readmissions (OR, 1.08 [95% CI, 0.92-1.26]) in adjusted analysis.
Conclusions and relevance: Self-reported direct communication between inpatient and outpatient providers occurred at a low rate but was not associated with readmissions. This suggests that enhancing interprovider communication at hospital discharge may not, in isolation, prevent readmissions.