Quality of Care Transitions for Rehabilitation Patients with Musculoskeletal Disorders
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Background: Care transitions are a common and frequently adverse aspect of health care, resulting in a high-risk period for both care quality and patient safety (Coleman, 2003; Forster et al., 2003; Picker Institute 1999; van Walraven et al., 2004; Cook et al., 2000). Patients who have complex care needs and undergo treatment from multiple care settings may be at a greater risk for poor care transitions (Coleman et al., 2004). Using quantitative performance measurement scales is one method that can assess the quality of care transitions, and identify areas for improvement. The psychometric properties of the primary performance measurement scale, the Care Transitions Measure (CTM), have not been rigorously assessed, particularly within a higher risk, medically complex population such as older adults with musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders. Furthermore, despite the negative health implications that can result from poor transitions and the commonality of care transitions among persons with complex care needs, there is a significant dearth of research on this crucial aspect of health care. Methods: This research examines the ability of the CTM to adequately assess the quality of care transitions among a complex population of older MSK rehabilitation patients and explores care transitions from the perspective of the patient and the health care provider. Information was gathered through telephone administration of the CTM to MSK patients after they transitioned from inpatient rehabilitation units to home, and through a series of qualitative key informant interviews with a range of health care professionals in care settings relevant to the care continuum of older MSK patients. Inter-rater reliability, a type of reliability that has never been tested with the CTM, and construct validity were assessed and qualitative analyses were used to examine qualitative information obtained through the CTM administration to patients and through the interviews with health care providers. Results: The CTM demonstrated excellent inter-rater reliability for the overall score (intraclass correlation coefficient = 0.77; p=0.03) despite only fair agreement between each item. Internal consistency of the CTM was high (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.94). The construct validity of the CTM was supported; however qualitative data from the patient and health care provider perspectives suggest additional items should be considered for inclusion. Qualitative information from patients also suggests the need for revisions to the wording of some items and the response options. Health care provider interviews suggest that issues surrounding transitional care are similar regardless of the care setting involved. Conclusions: Although the CTM proved to be reliable, qualitative data suggests that the addition of items should be considered to improve the content validity of the CTM, which would in turn improve its construct validity as well. Recommendations for scale improvement are made, as are recommendations for an alternative scale to assess care transition quality from a health care provider perspective. The results of this study support efforts to improve the outcomes of care transitions, care planning, and the overall quality of life for older rehabilitation patients.