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Facilitators and barriers to post-discharge pain assessment and triage: a qualitative study of nurses' and patients' perspectives.

Chen J, Wijesundara JG, Patterson A, Cutrona SL, Aiello S, McManus DD, McKee MD, Wang B, Houston TK. Facilitators and barriers to post-discharge pain assessment and triage: a qualitative study of nurses' and patients' perspectives. BMC health services research. 2021 Sep 28; 21(1):1021.

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BACKGROUND: After hospital discharge, patients can experience symptoms prompting them to seek acute medical attention. Early evaluation of patients'' post-discharge symptoms by healthcare providers may improve appropriate healthcare utilization and patient safety. Post-discharge follow-up phone calls, which are used for routine transitional care in U.S. hospitals, serve as an important channel for provider-patient communication about symptoms. This study aimed to assess the facilitators and barriers to evaluating and triaging pain symptoms in cardiovascular patients through follow-up phone calls after their discharge from a large healthcare system in Central Massachusetts. We also discuss strategies that may help address the identified barriers. METHODS: Guided by the Practical, Robust, Implementation and Sustainability Model (PRISM), we completed semi-structured interviews with 7 nurses and 16 patients in 2020. Selected nurses conducted (or supervised) post-discharge follow-up calls on behalf of 5 clinical teams (2 primary care; 3 cardiology). We used thematic analysis to identify themes from interviews and mapped them to the domains of the PRISM model. RESULTS: Participants described common facilitators and barriers related to the four domains of PRISM: Intervention (I), Recipients (R), Implementation and Sustainability Infrastructure (ISI), and External Environment (EE). Facilitators include: (1) patients being willing to receive provider follow-up (R); (2) nurses experienced in symptom assessment (R); (3) good care coordination within individual clinical teams (R); (4) electronic health record system and call templates to support follow-up calls (ISI); and (5) national and institutional policies to support post-discharge follow-up (EE). Barriers include: (1) limitations of conducting symptom assessment by provider-initiated follow-up calls (I); (2) difficulty connecting patients and providers in a timely manner (R); (3) suboptimal coordination for transitional care among primary care and cardiology providers (R); and (4) lack of emphasis on post-discharge follow-up call reimbursement among cardiology clinics (EE). Specific barriers for pain assessment include: (1) concerns with pain medication misuse (R); and (2) no standardized pain assessment and triage protocol (ISI). CONCLUSIONS: Strategies to empower patients, facilitate timely patient-provider communication, and support care coordination regarding pain evaluation and treatment may reduce the barriers and improve processes and outcomes of pain assessment and triage.

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