Development and testing of a standardized communication form to improve transitions for nursing home residents

One of the key findings from the Older Persons’ Transitions in Care (OPTIC) study is the need to improve communication among health care providers involved in the handover of frail elderly residents during transfers to and from the emergency department. These transitions from long term care to emergency departments and back are facilitated by personnel from emergency medical services, long-term care and the emergency department.
Considering the many different types of healthcare personnel involved in these handovers, some information as simple as whether a resident owns eyeglasses, dentures, walking aids, etc. is often missed in documentation. Thereby, these personal assistive devices may not accompany the resident to the emergency department and back or possibly become lost during the transition. This failure to protect the vulnerable elderly resident and their belongings can leave them frightened and feeling unable to communicate at their assisted capacity.
We developed a communication form to pilot-test in a sample of transitions from nursing homes to the emergency department and back. Elements of the communication form were informed by previous research and include essential medical information, reference to documents, and personal assistive devices. Based on this pilot-test, we hope to confirm that a communication form used by all health care providers during transitions of care improves communication resulting in better care for the frail elderly resident.