BACKGROUND: As health systems transition to value-based care, improving transitional care (TC) remains a priority. Hospitals implementing evidence-based TC models often adapt them to local contexts. However, limited research has evaluated which groups of TC strategies, or transitional care activities, commonly implemented by hospitals correspond with improved patient outcomes. In order to identify TC strategy groups for evaluation, we applied a data-driven approach informed by literature review and expert opinion.

METHODS: Based on a review of evidence-based TC models and the literature, focus groups with patients and family caregivers identifying what matters most to them during care transitions, and expert review, the Project ACHIEVE team identified 22 TC strategies to evaluate. Patient exposure to TC strategies was measured through a hospital survey (N = 42) and prospective survey of patients discharged from those hospitals (N = 8080). To define groups of TC strategies for evaluation, we performed a multistep process including: using ACHIEVE'S prior retrospective analysis; performing exploratory factor analysis, latent class analysis, and finite mixture model analysis on hospital and patient survey data; and confirming results through expert review. Machine learning (e.g., random forest) was performed using patient claims data to explore the predictive influence of individual strategies, strategy groups, and key covariates on 30-day hospital readmissions.

RESULTS: The methodological approach identified five groups of TC strategies that were commonly delivered as a bundle by hospitals: 1) Patient Communication and Care Management, 2) Hospital-Based Trust, Plain Language, and Coordination, 3) Home-Based Trust, Plain language, and Coordination, 4) Patient/Family Caregiver Assessment and Information Exchange Among Providers, and 5) Assessment and Teach Back. Each TC strategy group comprises three to six, non-mutually exclusive TC strategies (i.e., some strategies are in multiple TC strategy groups). Results from random forest analyses revealed that TC strategies patients reported receiving were more important in predicting readmissions than TC strategies that hospitals reported delivering, and that other key co-variates, such as patient comorbidities, were the most important variables.

CONCLUSION: Sophisticated statistical tools can help identify underlying patterns of hospitals' TC efforts. Using such tools, this study identified five groups of TC strategies that have potential to improve patient outcomes.

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Published in BMC Health Services Research, v. 21, issue 1, article no. 35.

© The Author(s) 2021

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

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Funding Information

Research reported in this manuscript was funded through a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Award (TC-1403-14049).

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The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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