The impact of transitional care programs on health services utilization in community-dwelling older adults: a systematic review Journal Articles uri icon

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  • ABSTRACT Objective: The objective was to identify and synthesize the best available evidence on the impact of transitional care programs on various forms of health services utilization in community-dwelling older adults. Introduction: There is growing evidence that transitional care programs can help address important challenges facing health care systems and our increasing older adult population in many countries by reducing unnecessary health service utilization. There is a need for a systematic review of the research evaluating the impact of transitional care programs on hospital and other health service usage. Inclusion criteria: The review included studies on community-dwelling adults age 60 and over with at least one medical diagnosis, and which evaluated the outcomes of transitional care programs on health system utilization of older adults. The outcomes for this review were hospital usage including admissions and readmissions, emergency department usage, primary care/physician usage, nursing home usage, and home health care usage. The review considered experimental and epidemiological study designs including randomized controlled trials, non-randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental studies, before and after studies, prospective and retrospective cohort studies, and case-control studies. Methods: A three-step search was utilized to find published and unpublished studies conducted in any country but reported in English. Six electronic databases were searched from inception of the database to May, 2016. A search for unpublished studies was also conducted. Methodological quality was assessed independently by two reviewers using the Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal checklist for systematic reviews and research synthesis. Quantitative data were extracted from included studies independently by the two reviewers using the standardized Joanna Briggs Institute data extraction tools. Due to the methodological heterogeneity of the included studies, a comprehensive meta-analysis for all outcomes was not possible. Meta-analysis was conducted for rehospitalization at 30, 90 and 180 days. A narrative summary of other quantitative findings was conducted. Results: Twenty-three studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in the review. Nineteen of the studies were randomized controlled trials and four were case control studies, involving 20,997 participants in total with a mean age of 76. Meta-analysis found that transitional care significantly reduced hospital readmission rates at 30 days (odds ratio [OR] 0.75, 95% confidence intervals [CIs] 0.62–0.91, p< 0.01), 90 days (OR 0.77, 95% CIs 0.59–1.02, p = 0.04), and 180 days (OR 0.67, 95% CIs 0.46–0.99, p < 0.01). Narrative synthesis indicated little impact of transitional care on emergency department and nursing home usage, increased use of primary care/physician usage, and decreased home health care usage. Conclusions: Based on a review of 23 studies conducted in the USA, Hong Kong, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, we identified four major conclusions. First, transitional care reduces rehospitalization rates over time, with the largest effects seen at 30 days. Second, transitional care may increase the utilization of primary care services and thus have a favourable impact on preventative care. Third, transitional care may reduce home health usage. Fourth, transitional care interventions of one month or less appear to be as effective as longer interventions in reducing hospital usage.


  • Weeks, Lori E
  • Macdonald, Marilyn
  • Martin-Misener, Ruth
  • Helwig, Melissa
  • Bishop, Andrea
  • Iduye, Damilola F
  • Moody, Elaine

publication date

  • February 2018