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Acad Emerg Med. 2005 Jul;12(7):653-7.

Impact of a transfer center on interhospital referrals and transfers to a tertiary care center.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR 97239, USA.



The partnership of faculty physicians and senior clinical hospital administrators in the decision to accept interhospital transfers has not been fully studied. Transfers to academic medical centers on the basis of economics have been of particular concern.


To evaluate the impact of joint decision making on transfer acceptance, and to evaluate the basis for decisions to transfer patients to an academic medical center.


This was a database study of requested adult interhospital transfers, excluding psychiatric transfers, occurring between January 1, 2003, and December 31, 2003, by using data from a computerized patient-tracking system. Where possible, comparisons with the prior calendar year (i.e., prior to implementation of the administrative review process) were made. Incidence of refusal to accept requested transfers and payer mix of transfer patients were the main outcomes of interest.


More than 90% of the adult patients were transferred for conditions that required tertiary care or met Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) requirements. The patient conditions that did not meet tertiary care needs included obstetric patients who did not have prenatal care, patients who had hand and facial trauma, and patients who weighed more than 300 pounds. The payer mix of transfer patients remained stable when using the administrator and physician team to determine acceptance of transfers. During the evaluation period, approximately 91,500 patients statewide lost some level of Medicaid coverage.


The value of an administrator and physician team as partners in the interhospital transfer process was demonstrated. Active management of interhospital transfers supports transfer of patients who require tertiary care or who meet EMTALA criteria, thus conserving limited bed capacity and ensuring financial equity, while caring for the uninsured and underinsured patients throughout the state.

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