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J Gen Intern Med. 2014 Nov;29(11):1513-8. doi: 10.1007/s11606-014-2942-6. Epub 2014 Jul 24.

Evaluation of a primary care-based post-discharge phone call program: keeping the primary care practice at the center of post-hospitalization care transition.

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Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.



The post-hospitalization period is a precarious time for patients. Post-discharge nurse telephone call programs aiming to prevent unnecessary readmissions have had mixed results.


Describe a primary-care based program to identify and address problems arising after hospital discharge.


A quality improvement program embedding registered nurses in a primary care practice to call patients within 72 h of hospital discharge and route problems within the practice for real-time resolution.


Adult patients with a primary care provider in the general internal medicine practice at the University of California San Francisco who were discharged home from the Medicine service.


Patients reached directly by phone had a 'full-scripted encounter;' those reached only by voice-mail had a 'message-scripted encounter;' those not reached despite multiple attempts had a 'missed encounter.' Among patients with full-scripted encounters, we identified and cataloged problems arising after hospital discharge and measured the proportion of calls in which a problem was uncovered. For the different encounter types, we compared follow-up appointment attendance and 30-day readmission rates.


Of 790 eligible discharges, 486 had a full-scripted, 229 a message-scripted and 75 a missed encounter. Among the 486 full-scripted encounters, nurses uncovered at least one problem in 371 (76 %) discharges, 25 % of which (n = 94) included new symptoms, and 47 % (n = 173) included medication issues. Discharges with full-scripted and message-scripted encounters were associated with higher follow-up appointment attendance rates compared with those with missed encounters (60.1 %, 58.5 %, 38.5 % respectively p = 0.004). There was no significant difference in 30-day readmission rates (12.8 %, 14.8 %, 14.7 %; p = 0.72).


Our results suggest that centering a post-discharge phone call program within the primary care practice improves post-hospital care by identifying clinical and care-coordination problems early. With the new Medicare transitional care payment, such programs could become an important, self-sustaining part of the patient-centered medical home.

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