The Revolving Door of Resident Continuity Practice: Identifying Gaps in Transitions of Care

  • Laurie C. Caines
  • Diane M. Brockmeyer
  • Anjala V. Tess
  • Hans Kim
  • Gila Kriegel
  • Carol K. Bates
Original Research



It is well documented that transitions of care pose a risk to patient safety. Every year, graduating residents transfer their patient panels to incoming interns, yet in our practice we consistently find that approximately 50% of patients do not return for follow-up care within a year of their resident leaving.


To examine the implications of this lapse of care with respect to chronic disease management, follow-up of abnormal test results, and adherence with routine health care maintenance.


Retrospective chart review


We studied a subset of patients cared for by 46 senior internal medicine residents who graduated in the spring of 2008. 300 patients had been identified as high priority requiring follow-up within a year. We examined the records of the 130 of these patients who did not return for care.

Main Measures

We tabulated unaddressed abnormal test results, missed health care screening opportunities and unmonitored chronic medical conditions. We also attempted to call these patients to identify barriers to follow-up.

Key Results

These patients had a total of 185 chronic medical conditions. They missed a total of 106 screening opportunities including mammogram (24), Pap smear (60) and colon cancer screening (22). Thirty-two abnormal pathology, imaging and laboratory test results were not followed-up as the graduating senior intended. Among a small sample of patients who were reached by phone, barriers to follow-up included a lack of knowledge about the need to see a physician, distance between home and our office, difficulties with insurance, and transportation.


This study demonstrates the high-risk nature of patient handoffs in the ambulatory setting when residents graduate. We discuss changes that might improve the panel transfer process.


patient safety resident continuity practice transitions of care 



We thank the medical residents at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for performing the chart review and patient surveys and for the outstanding care they provide to their patients. We received no funding for the design implementation, interpretation or publication of this study. This work was presented at the Society of General Internal Medicine national meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2010.

Conflicts of Interest

None disclosed.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurie C. Caines
    • 1
  • Diane M. Brockmeyer
    • 2
  • Anjala V. Tess
    • 2
  • Hans Kim
    • 2
  • Gila Kriegel
    • 2
  • Carol K. Bates
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of MedicineUniversity of Connecticut School of MedicineFarmingtonUSA
  2. 2.Division of General Medicine and Primary CareBeth Israel Deaconess Medical CenterBostonUSA

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