Background: The process of transitioning Veterans to primary care following a non-Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitalization can be challenging. Poor transitions result in medical complications and increased hospital readmissions. The goal of this transition of care quality improvement (QI) project is to identify gaps in the current transition process and implement an intervention that bridges the gap and improves the current transition of care process within the Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS).
Methods: We will employ qualitative methods to understand the current transition of care process back to VA primary care for Veterans who received care in a non-VA hospital in ECHCS. We will conduct in-depth semi-structured interviews with Veterans hospitalized in 2015 in non-VA hospitals as well as both VA and non-VA providers, staff, and administrators involved in the current care transition process. Participants will be recruited using convenience and snowball sampling. Qualitative data analysis will be guided by conventional content analysis and Lean Six Sigma process improvement tools. We will use VA claim data to identify the top ten non-VA hospitals serving rural and urban Veterans by volume and Veterans that received inpatient services at non-VA hospitals. Informed by both qualitative and quantitative data, we will then develop a transitions care coordinator led intervention to improve the transitions process. We will test the transition of care coordinator intervention using repeated improvement cycles incorporating salient factors in value stream mapping that are important for an efficient and effective transition process. Furthermore, we will complete a value stream map of the transition process at two other VA Medical Centers and test whether an implementation strategy of audit and feedback (the value stream map of the current transition process with the Transition of Care Dashboard) versus audit and feedback with Transition Nurse facilitation of the process using the Resource Guide and Transition of Care Dashboard improves the transition process, continuity of care, patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes.
Discussion: Our current transition of care process has shortcomings. An intervention utilizing a transition care coordinator has the potential to improve this process. Transitioning Veterans to primary care following a non-VA hospitalization is a crucial step for improving care coordination for Veterans.