Background: In Canada, there were over 60,000 long-term care facility patient transfers to emergency departments (EDs) in 2014, with up to a quarter of them being potentially preventable. Each preventable transfer exposes the patient to transport- and hospital-related complications, contributes to ED crowding, and adds significant costs to the health care system. There have been many proposed and studied interventions aimed at alleviating the issue, but few attempts to assess and evaluate different interventions across institutions.
Methods: A systematic search of MEDLINE, CINAHL, and EMBASE for studies describing the impact of interventions aimed at reducing preventable transfers from long-term care facilities to EDs on ED transfer rate. Two independent reviewers screened the studies for inclusion and completed a quality assessment. A tabular and narrative synthesis was then completed. This study adhered to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) guidelines.
Results: A total of 26 studies were included (Cohen's k = 0.68). One was of low quality (Cohen's k = 0.58). Studies were summarized into five themes based on intervention type: Telemedicine, Outreach Teams, Interdisciplinary Care, Integrated Approaches, and Other. Effective interventions reported reductions in ED transfer rates post intervention ranging from 10 to 70%. Interdisciplinary health care teams staffed within long-term care facilities were the most effective interventions.
Conclusion: There are several promising interventions that have successfully reduced the number of preventable transfers from long-term care facilities to EDs in a variety of health care settings. Widespread implementation of these interventions has the potential to reduce ED crowding in Canada.
Keywords: Crowding; emergency medicine; long-term care facilities; patient transfers.