The consequences of poor communication during transitions from hospital to skilled nursing facility: a qualitative study

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2013 Jul;61(7):1095-102. doi: 10.1111/jgs.12328. Epub 2013 Jun 3.


Objectives: To examine how skilled nursing facility (SNF) nurses transition the care of individuals admitted from hospitals, the barriers they experience, and the outcomes associated with variation in the quality of transitions.

Design: Qualitative study using grounded dimensional analysis, focus groups, and in-depth interviews.

Setting: Five Wisconsin SNFs.

Participants: Twenty-seven registered nurses.

Measurements: Semistructured questions guided the focus group and individual interviews.

Results: SNF nurses rely heavily on written hospital discharge communication to transition individuals into the SNF effectively. Nurses cited multiple inadequacies of hospital discharge information, including regular problems with medication orders (including the lack of opioid prescriptions for pain), little psychosocial or functional history, and inaccurate information regarding current health status. These communication inadequacies necessitated repeated telephone clarifications, created care delays (including delays in pain control), increased SNF staff stress, frustrated individuals and family members, contributed directly to negative SNF facility image, and increased risk of rehospitalization. SNF nurses identified a specific list of information and components that they need to facilitate a safe, high-quality transition.

Conclusion: Nurses note multiple deficiencies in hospital-to-SNF transitions, with poor quality discharge communication being identified as the major barrier to safe and effective transitions. This information should be used to refine and support the dissemination of evidence-based interventions that support transitions of care, including the Interventions to Reduce Acute Care Transfers program.

Keywords: care transitions; communication; hospital to skilled nursing facility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Focus Groups
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Patient Transfer*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wisconsin