The Role of Continuity of Care in Improving Healthcare Quality

Continuity of care involves providing patients with seamless coordination of their healthcare services. This can be challenging in healthcare systems that involve multiple providers and care settings.

Clinical trials show that continuity of care can improve patient outcomes and satisfaction. These studies focus on different aspects of continuity: informational, management, and relational.

Improved Patient Satisfaction

Continuity of care can be viewed from two critical perspectives. For patients, it is the experience of a ‘continuous caring relationship’ with an identified healthcare professional; for providers, in vertically integrated healthcare systems, it refers to the provision of ‘seamless service’ through integration and coordination across healthcare boundaries.

Several metrics can measure patient satisfaction with continuity of care. For example, a survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians found that patients with a stable provider experience fewer hospital readmissions and are more likely to follow their physicians’ recommendations than patients who experience frequent changes in care providers.

To improve continuity of care, healthcare organizations should utilize an EHR that allows providers to easily retrieve medical information and provide a comprehensive view of the patient’s health history and current treatment. A patient portal can also help patients access their medical information and schedule appointments with their healthcare team. This will increase transparency and communication between patients and their providers, ensuring continuity of care throughout their stay at the SNF.

Reduced Hospital Readmissions

Hospital readmissions are costly to hospitals, and reducing them can help improve overall healthcare quality. However, many factors beyond a discharging hospital’s control can impact a patient’s ability to stay healthy and avoid rehospitalization, including the availability of community resources and patients’ personal and family health care.

Relational continuity builds trust between the healthcare Provider Network and their patients. It also enables them to understand better a patient’s medical history and unique health needs. Documented information tends to focus on the disease or condition, but knowing a patient’s preferences and context is essential for bridging separate healthcare events.

A recent study found that establishing a solid continuity of care could reduce readmission rates. The researchers identified various risk factors associated with 30-day readmissions, including age, gender, comorbidities, and social determinants of health. They then used a two-phase approach to address them. During phase one, they performed statistical regression to identify individual risk factors for 30-day readmissions.

Reduced Costs

Continuity of care is linked to improved patient outcomes and satisfaction. It is also associated with reduced healthcare costs and increased efficiency. Moreover, it is essential for patient safety as it reduces the risk of medical errors caused by missing or inaccurate information.

In one study, patients with a physician-led continuity of care plan experienced lower hospital admissions and emergency department visits. Furthermore, these patients had better medication adherence and were more satisfied with their healthcare experience.

Continuity of care refers to transferring comprehensive and accurate medical information from one healthcare professional to another. Several healthcare providers use electronic health records (EHRs) to facilitate this process. This ensures that a patient’s medical history is accessible to all authorized healthcare professionals. It also promotes consistency and coordination of care between different healthcare settings. It also enhances trust and communication between patients and their physicians. Continuity of care can be categorized into three distinct aspects: informational continuity, management continuity, and clinical continuity.

Increased Efficiency

Continuity of care decreases healthcare fragmentation and helps patients receive high-quality, cost-efficient medical services. Additionally, continuity of care can help providers detect problems sooner and advocate for their patients more effectively. Furthermore, continuity of care can help reduce costs by minimizing duplication of tests and treatment.

Participants highlighted that a physician-led approach to patient management and strong cross-disciplinary teamwork could facilitate continuity of care. In addition, they suggested that regular meetings between professionals working with a patient could also improve continuity of care by ensuring everyone involved is aware of the relevant information.

Continuing care is particularly important for patients in SNFs because it allows them to continue to get the care they need, even when they move from one healthcare setting to another. However, achieving continuity of care in these settings can take time because it requires coordination across multiple organizations and providers. It also involves sharing thorough and concise patient medical information.