Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Population Health and Health Policy, Maine Rural Health Research Center

Emergency Transfers of the Elderly to Critical Access Hospitals: Opportunities for Improving Patient Safety and Quality


Research has shown that essential information is often missing during transfer of nursing facility residents to the ED, and communication problems between nursing facilities an EDs are one of the most cited barriers to providing quality patient care.  Tools, such as tranfer forms and checklists, that improve communication between settings of care help improve patient safety and quality of care. 

This Policy Brief includes an appendix of transfer forms from 11 organizations.

Key Findings:

  • Transfers to the hospital emergency department (ED) are common for many nursing facility (NF) residents, with over 25% experiencing at least one ED visit annually, and many encountering repeat visits.

  • Communication issues, including incomplete information during transfer, impact clinical care of the elderly NF resident transferred to the ED.

  • Several studies strongly recommend the use of standardized transfer forms as a way of improving communication, which ultimately improves patient safety and quality of care. However, standardized transfer forms, in and of themselves, are not sufficient to solve communication issues between the sites of care (NF, EMS, ED).

  • The establishment of ongoing relationships between hospital, EMS, and nursing facility staff help facilitate effective communication regarding patient needs during the transfer process and encourage the development of a systems approach to the transition of care.

Why are standardized transfer forms helpful?

For Nursing Facilities: they help facilitate accurate exchange of information, reduce potentially avoidable hospitalizations, and provide a record of the patient's condition upon return.

For Nursing Facility residents: they help to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of transfer and treatment and may help the resident avoid additional health complications and emotional trauma.

For EMS: they provide the needed information to treat the patient en route and facilitate an accurate and comprehensive handoff report to the hospital.

For Hospitals: they help facilitate effective assessment and treatment of the patient in the ED, minimizes time spent in the ED, and reduces unnecessary admissions.

For Policymakers: to help reduce costs associated with unnecessary hospitalizations and longer ED lengths of stay.

Suggested citation: Pearson KB, Coburn AF. Emergency Transfers of the Elderly From Nursing Facilities to Critical Access Hospitals: Opportunities for Improving Patient Safety and Quality. (Policy Brief #32).  Portland, ME: Flex Monitoring Team; January 2013.

For more information on this study, please contact Karen Pearson at

Publication Type: 
Research and Policy Brief
Publish Date: 
January 30, 2013

Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system

Marty Zanghi

USM's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy has been awarded a $600,000 grant to help young people raised in Maine's foster system to prepare for college and the workforce.

The money comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a $5.4 million national effort aimed at youth who are homeless or in either the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

"Many of these young people have suffered abuse or trauma and were raised in poverty and neglect," said Marty Zanghi, the Cutler Center's youth development director.

The money -- including an expected $400,000 more in matching funds -- will pay for contracted work with agencies in the target areas, starting with the greater Portland area and Penobscot, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Nationally and in Maine, only about 3 percent of people who grow up in the foster care system achieve a college degree, he said.

"It's dramatically lower than the rate for the general population," Zanghi said. "It's a horrible outcome."

It doesn't have to be that way, though.

"There are young people that overcome these circumstances," he said. "I know people who have master's degrees and Ph.Ds."

The Casey Foundation's national effort is being called the "Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential" (LEAP) initiative.

The initiative is working on partnerships in Maine and nine other areas: Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York. In each case, people will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.

In Maine, the work will include a pair of successful programs, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) and Jobs for the Future. Results will be carefully tracked, Zanghi said.

After the first year, the program is expected to grow.

"Eventually, the additional help will be available to all children, 14 and over, in the foster care system in the state of Maine," Zanghi said.

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