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Innov Aging. 2018 Jul 5;2(2):igy017. doi: 10.1093/geroni/igy017. eCollection 2018 Jun.

Investigating the Avoidability of Hospitalizations of Long Stay Nursing Home Residents: Opportunities for Improvement.

Author information

Indiana University School of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Indianapolis.
Regenstrief Institute, IU Center for Aging Research, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Indiana University School of Nursing, Indianapolis.
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.


Background and Objectives:

To examine the relationship between hospital diagnoses associated with hospital transfers of long stay nursing home residents, ratings of avoidability of transfer, and RN-identified quality improvement opportunities.

Research Design and Methods:

Prospective clinical demonstration project, named OPTIMISTIC, with trained RNs embedded in nursing homes that performed root cause analyses for 1,931 transfers to the hospital between November 2014 and July 2016. OPTIMISTIC RNs also rated whether transfers were avoidable, identified quality improvement opportunities, and recorded hospital diagnoses. Resident characteristics were obtained from Minimum Data Set assessments. Relationships between six hospital diagnoses commonly considered "potentially avoidable" and OPTIMISTIC RN root cause analysis findings were examined. Facilities were participating in the OPTIMISTIC demonstration project designed to reduce hospital transfers during the study period.


Twenty-five percent of acute transfers associated with six common diagnoses were considered definitely or probably avoidable by project RNs versus 22% of transfers associated with other diagnoses. The most common quality improvement opportunity identified for transfers rated as avoidable was that the condition could have been managed safely if appropriate resources were available, a factor cited in 45% of transfers associated with any of the six diagnoses. Problems with communication among stakeholders were the most commonly noted area for improvement (48%) for transfers associated with other diagnoses. Many other areas for quality improvement were noted, including earlier detection of change in status and the need for understanding patient preferences or a palliative care plan.

Discussion and Implications:

Although some nursing home transfers may later be deemed potentially avoidable based on post-transfer hospital diagnosis from Medicare claims data, OPTIMISTIC nurses caring for these residents at time of transfer categorized the majority of these transfers as unavoidable irrespective of the hospital diagnosis. Multiple quality improvement opportunities were identified associated with these hospital transfers, whether the transfer was considered potentially avoidable or unavoidable.


Palliative care; Quality of care; Relocation and transition

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