"Care transitions is a team sport, and yet all too often we don't know who our teammates are, or how they can help."
~ Eric A. Coleman, MD, MPH

What do we mean by "Care Transitions"?

The term "care transitions" refers to the movement patients make between health care practitioners and settings as their condition and care needs change during the course of a chronic or acute illness. For example, in the course of an acute exacerbation of an illness, a patient might receive care from a PCP or specialist in an outpatient setting, then transition to a hospital physician and nursing team during an inpatient admission before moving on to yet another care team at a skilled nursing facility. Finally, the patient might return home, where he or she would receive care from a visiting nurse. Each of these shifts from care providers and settings is defined as a care transition.


Definition

A recent position statement from the American Geriatrics Society defines transitional care as follows:

For the purpose of this position statement, transitional care is defined as a set of actions designed to ensure the coordination and continuity of health care as patients transfer between different locations or different levels of care within the same location. Representative locations include (but are not limited to) hospitals, sub-acute and post-acute nursing facilities, the patient's home, primary and specialty care offices, and long-term care facilities. Transitional care is based on a comprehensive plan of care and the availability of health care practitioners who are well-trained in chronic care and have current information about the patient's goals, preferences, and clinical status. It includes logistical arrangements, education of the patient and family, and coordination among the health professionals involved in the transition. Transitional care, which encompasses both the sending and the receiving aspects of the transfer, is essential for persons with complex care needs.

Source: Coleman EA, Boult CE on behalf of the American Geriatrics Society Health Care Systems Committee. Improving the Quality of Transitional Care for Persons with Complex Care Needs. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2003;51(4):556-557.


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© Eric A. Coleman, MD, MPH