The Importance of a Smooth Transition of Care in the Patient Journey


Ashley Worral
by Ryan Phillips, Customer Success
August 9th

There’s a vast ocean of articles and blogs online about what patients want from their healthcare experience. Every product vendor and major publication in the industry has an opinion, but if you cast your net over all the pieces produced in recent years, what you’re guaranteed to see rising to the surface is a demand for more empathy, communication, and trust. Specifically, patients are calling for transparency, openness, and information sharing. Often these considerations are discussed in the context of the interaction between a doctor and patient during a visit – but in healthcare, every aspect of a patient’s journey matters, from the moment they enter a facility to the time they leave after receiving care.

One critical juncture that significantly influences a patient care experience is the transition of care. These transitions, when executed seamlessly, can make a world of difference in how patients perceive the effectiveness of the organization providing their care, develop trust in providers, and see how strong communication is within care teams.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the profound impact of transitions of care on the patient personal and emotional experience while also providing best practices to measure their effectiveness and effective survey questions to capture vital patient insights.

Free eBook – The Care Necessities: A Simple Guide to Elevating Patient Experience


Understanding Transitions and Their Role in Care Coordination

Transitions of care encompass the various shifts a patient undergoes throughout their healthcare journey. They occur when moving from one department to another, from an inpatient to outpatient setting, or even during the handoff from one healthcare provider to another. Transitions are central to providing a continuum of care and pivotal in efforts to ensure that patients feel supported, informed, and confident in the care theyre receiving. They’re also one critical element of strong care coordination. Care coordination, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “involves deliberately organizing patient care activities and sharing information among all of the participants concerned with a patient’s care to achieve safer and more effective care.

A smooth transition of care has a direct impact on a patient’s overall experience. When these transitions are handled efficiently, patients feel a sense of continuity and trust in the healthcare team. For instance, a patient moving from the emergency department to an inpatient unit should feel that their medical history, preferences, and concerns have been effectively communicated. This minimizes confusion, reduces anxiety, and fosters a sense of safety, ultimately enhancing the patient’s perception of care.


Best Practices for Gathering Patient Input to Improve Transitions of Care

Measuring the quality of transitions of care is vital to continuous improvement. But when do you measure? And how? Real-time, customizable surveys are the key tool you need, and they can provide you with immediate, actionable feedback even in the middle of the patient experience. I recommend the following timing for survey delivery and a few operational strategies that will ensure your patients feel heard and that their input directly influences positive changes that boost their satisfaction, NPS scores, and even employee engagement. 

When to Engage Patients

Traditionally, patient experience directors and healthcare executives have left surveying until after discharge. But we all know how that goes: The patient gets a survey and maybe they fill it out. But usually not immediately. And as time passes, the recollection of their experience fades, leading to unhelpful feedback. What tends to stay top of mind? Non-specific thoughts. Complaints. Nagging grievances that, at that point, are probably not terribly useful days or weeks later. Instead, try surveying:

  • Shortly After Admission: Assess the patient’s entry experience to address any immediate concerns and set expectations for the remainder of their experience. 
  • During Handoffs: Send surveys following critical handoff points, such as when a patient moves between departments or is transferred from one healthcare provider to another. 
  • Prior to Discharge: Engage patients before discharge to gauge the quality of the overall transition of care and the patient’s understanding of post-discharge instructions. 
  • Post-Discharge: Schedule follow-up surveys at specific intervals after the care transition to measure how it impacted the patient’s experience and outcomes in the long term. 

How to Engage Patients and Get Results

When conducted with careful planning, patient experience surveys can streamline service recovery, help identify areas for improvement across multiple-facility organizations, support reputation management, and play a role in increasing staff and clinician retention rates. Getting there, however, starts with assessing your approach to patient engagement and how you implement a survey program. Here’s what I recommend you do:

  • Customize Surveys: Tailor surveys to each key transition scenario to ensure questions are relevant and meaningful to the patient’s unique experience. 
  • Communicate Transparently: Share the purpose and benefits of the survey program with patients, emphasizing that their feedback directly contributes to improving care quality. 
  • Use a Closed-Loop Feedback System: Implement a closed-loop feedback system where negative responses trigger immediate notifications to appropriate staff, enabling prompt follow-up and issue resolution. 
  • Share Success Stories: Highlight positive patient feedback and successful transitions of care with your healthcare team to reinforce best practices and boost morale. 
  • Prioritize Benchmarking: Use the survey data to benchmark and compare performance across different locations, departments, or providers, fostering healthy competition and improvement. 
  • Conduct Data Analysis: Regularly analyze survey data to identify recurring issues, track progress over time, and make informed decisions for targeted improvement efforts across the patient care experience.

Free eBook – Engaging Your Patients: Pre, During, and Post Encounter

Survey Questions to Address Patient Personal and Emotional Experience

When a transition of care is at its most effective, it can help prevent readmissions and boost your organization’s reputation. However, when miscommunications occur, the risk of adverse events increases and patients may be put through unnecessary stress, frustration, and potentially, more time in care settings than they’re prepared for. These sample questions can help you fairly assess the patient experience during a transition: 

  • “Did the healthcare team explain the next steps in your care during the transition?”

    This question measures transparency, promotes clarity, and minimizes uncertainty in communications between clinician and patient. 

  • “Were your preferences and concerns communicated to the next healthcare provider?”

    By asking this question, healthcare organizations: ensure vital patient information is seamlessly transmitted, show patients that their voice matters, and place focus on personalized care. 

  • “Did you feel comfortable during the transition from one department to another?”

    This question helps determine the emotional impact of transitions on patients, highlighting areas where additional support may be needed. 

  • “Were you involved in the decision-making process during your transition?”

    This question assesses whether patients were actively included in decisions about their care, empowering them to take ownership of their health journey. 

  • Did the transition of care enhance your confidence in the healthcare team?”

    Confidence is closely tied to trust. This question measures whether transitions positively influenced patients’ faith in their healthcare providers.

Leverage Care Transition Feedback to Improve the Patient Care Experience 

Feedtrail clients have used learnings from their care transition engagement to coach specific providers and ensure they’re explaining next steps, update patient-facing documents such as welcome packets and discharge packets, and even add new roles specifically focused on ensuring smooth care transitions. 

In the intricate tapestry of patient care, the significance of transitions cannot be overstated. A well-coordinated transition of care can transform a potentially stressful process into a seamless, reassuring experience for patients. By employing thoughtful survey questions, healthcare organizations can not only measure the impact of transitions but also pave the way for continuous improvement, leading to a higher standard of patient-centered care. Smooth transitions of care aren’t just a convenience – they are a vital component of compassionate and effective healthcare delivery. Learn how Feedtrail can help you improve yours today.

The Care Necessities: A SimpleGuide to Elevating Patient Experience