It takes two to tango: improving patient referrals from the emergency department to inpatient clinicians

Lawrence, Sean, Spencer, Lyndall M., Sinnott, Michael and Eley, Robert (2015) It takes two to tango: improving patient referrals from the emergency department to inpatient clinicians. Ochsner Journal, 15 2: 149-153.

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Author Lawrence, Sean
Spencer, Lyndall M.
Sinnott, Michael
Eley, Robert
Title It takes two to tango: improving patient referrals from the emergency department to inpatient clinicians
Journal name Ochsner Journal   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1524-5012
Publication date 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
Volume 15
Issue 2
Start page 149
End page 153
Total pages 5
Place of publication New Orleans, LA, United States
Publisher Ochsner Clinic
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Background: The transfer of responsibility for patient care across clinical specialties is a complex process. Published and anecdotal data suggest that referrals often fail to meet the needs of one or both parties and that patient focus can be lost during the process. Little is known about the Australian situation.

Methods: To obtain a more complete understanding of the referral process, including the nature of communication in an Australian context, we conducted semistructured interviews in a convenience sample of 25 volunteers. Two established strategies for analyzing qualitative data were used.

Results: All respondents considered the following information essential components of a referral: an account of the patient's current condition, a working diagnosis or problem statement and history of the presenting concern, key test results or tests awaiting results, a potential management plan, and any special characteristics of the patient. Respondents acknowledged implied, if not literal, power to accept or reject an emergency department (ED) referral and said the imbalance of power was reinforced when the ED physician was junior to the inpatient clinician. Respondents also noted that in addition to the predominant organizational culture, an independent culture is associated with specific shifts. Foremost among the nonclinical aspects of a referral considered to be important was the timeliness of the contact made to achieve the transition. Respondents also said the success of a referral depended on the speaking and listening abilities of all parties. The individual's motivation to accept or reject a referral can also have an impact on communication.

Conclusion: Respondents attributed the difficulty of negotiating the transfer of a patient's care across the ED and inpatient interface to three distinct factors: variations in the clinical information required, the culture of the organization and of the clinical team in which the transaction takes place, and the characteristics of the individuals involved in the process. Improving communication skills has the potential to improve patient outcomes.
Keyword Emergency medicine
Patient admission
Patient handoff
Referral and consultation
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Medicine Publications
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work Publications
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