Many patients nationwide change their primary care physician (PCP) when internal medicine (IM) residents graduate. Few studies have examined this handoff.
To assess patient outcomes and resident perspectives after the year-end continuity clinic handoff
Patients who underwent a year-end clinic handoff in July 2010 and a comparison group of all other resident clinic patients from 2009–2011. PGY2 IM residents surveyed from 2010–2011.
Percent of high-risk patients after the clinic handoff scheduled for an appointment, who saw their assigned PCP, lost to follow-up, or had an acute visit (ED or hospitalization). Perceptions of PGY2 IM residents surveyed after receiving a clinic handoff.
Thirty graduating residents identified 258 high-risk patients. While nearly all patients (97 %) were scheduled, 29 % missed or cancelled their first new PCP visit. Only 44 % of patients saw the correct PCP and six months later, one-fifth were lost to follow-up. Patients not seen by a new PCP after the handoff were less likely to have appropriate follow-up for pending tests (0 % vs. 63 %, P < 0.001). A higher mean no show rate (NSR) was observed among patients who missed their first new PCP visit (22 % vs. 16 % NSR, p < 0.001) and those lost to follow-up (21 % vs. 17 % NSR, p = 0.019). While 47 % of residents worried about missing important data during the handoff, 47 % reported that they do not perceive patients as “theirs” until they are seen by them in clinic.
While most patients were scheduled for appointments after a clinic handoff, many did not see the correct resident and one-fifth were lost to follow-up. Patients who miss appointments are especially at risk of poor clinic handoff outcomes. Future efforts should improve patient attendance to their first new PCP visit and increase PCP ownership.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2100-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.