OBJECTIVE: To determine whether educational sessions with medical residents, with or without letters to their patients, improve patient satisfaction with transfer of their care from a departing to a new resident in an internal medicine clinic.
DESIGN: Observational study in Year 1 to establish a historical control, with a randomized intervention in Year 2.
SETTING: An internal medicine clinic in a teaching hospital.
PATIENTS/PARTICIPANTS: Patients of departing residents completed questionnaires in the waiting room at their first visit with a new resident, with mail-administered questionnaires for patients not presenting to the clinic within 3 months after transfer of their care. In Year 1, 376 patients completed questionnaires without intervention. The following spring, we conducted interactive seminars with 12 senior residents to improve their transfer of care skills (first intervention). Half of their patients were then randomized to receive a letter from the new doctor informing them of the change (second intervention). We assessed the efficacy of the interventions by administering questionnaires to 437 patients in the months following the interventions.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Multivariate analysis of Year 1 results identified doctors personally informing patients prior to leaving as the single strongest predictor of patient satisfaction (partial R2=.41). In Year 2, our first intervention increased the percentage of patients informed by their doctors from 71% in 1991 to 79% in 1992 (P<.001). Mean satisfaction dramatically improved, with the fraction of fully satisfied patients increasing from 47% at baseline, to 61% with the first intervention alone, and 72% with both interventions (P<.0001).
CONCLUSIONS: Simple methods such as resident education and direct mailings to patients significantly ease the difficult process of transferring patients from one physician to another. This has implications not only for residency programs, but for managed care networks competing to attract and retain patients.
patient satisfactiondoctor-patient relationshipprimary caremedical educationcontinuity of care