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Physician Perspectives on Interhospital Transfers

Mueller, Stephanie K. MD, MPH*†; Schnipper, Jeffrey L. MD, MPH*†

doi: 10.1097/PTS.0000000000000312
Original Articles

Objective The transfer of patients between acute care hospitals (interhospital transfer [IHT]) is a common but nonstandardized process leading to variable quality and safety. The goal of this study was to survey accepting physicians regarding problems encountered in the transfer process.

Methods A cross-sectional survey of residents and inpatient attendings from internal medicine, neurology, and surgery services at a large tertiary care referral hospital was undertaken to identify problematic aspects of the IHT process as perceived by accepting frontline providers. The frequency that specific scenarios were encountered in caring for transferred patients and whether these processes impacted patient safety were determined using 5- and 3-point Likert scales, respectively. The frequency of responses to each question were measured using proportions.

Results Approximately 51% of the 284 physicians surveyed responded. Pertinent findings included the following: physician subject surveys found that transferred patients sometimes, frequently, or always arrived without requiring specialized care in 56% of responses, arrived with unrealistic expectations of care in 77.2% of responses, arrived more than 24 hours after accepted for transfer in 80.1% of responses, and arrived without necessary transfer records in 86.9% of responses. Most respondents felt that lack of availability of transfer records and the time of day of arrival frequently posed a risk to transferred patients (57.2% and 53.1%, respectively). Response variation was noted between resident and attending physician respondents.

Conclusions Expectations of care, delays and timing of transfer, and information exchange at time of transfer were identified as all too common problems in IHT, which creates a risk for patient safety. These areas are important targets for investigation and the development of interventions to improve patient safety.

From the *BWH Hospitalist Service and Division of General Internal Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital;

Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Correspondence: Stephanie Mueller, MD, MPH, Division of General Internal Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 1620 Tremont St, Roxbury, MA (e-mail:

The author discloses no conflict of interest.

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