Care Transitions in the Psychiatric Hospital: Focus on Older Adults

Matthew Conlon, James Tew, Lalith Kumer K. Solai, Priya Gopalan, Pierre Azzam, Jordan F. Karp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Patients undergoing a care transition are vulnerable to duplication of services, conflicting care recommendations, and errors in medication reconciliation. Older adults may be more vulnerable to care transitions given their relatively higher medical burden, cognitive impairment, and frequent polypharmacy. In this Treatment in Geriatric Mental Health: Research in Action article, we first present the results of a quality improvement study examining the frequency of care transitions to and from the medical hospital among patients admitted to a university-affiliated psychiatric hospital. Among a sample of 50 geriatric adults and 50 nongeriatric adults admitted to the psychiatric hospital, we tallied the number of care transitions to and from the medical hospital. We found that the geriatric cohort was significantly more likely to experience this type of care transition (p = 0.012, Fisher's exact test) compared to the nongeriatric cohort. In the second part of this article, we use a clinical vignette to illustrate the types of medical errors that can occur as a vulnerable and frail older adult moves between acute psychiatric and medical settings. Finally, we list provider-level and systems-level evidence-based recommendations for how care of the patient in the vignette could be improved. The quality improvement study and clinical vignette demonstrate how older adults are at greater risk for care transitions to and from the acute medical setting during psychiatric hospitalization, and that creative solutions are required to improve outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)368-377
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Quality improvement
  • care transition
  • geriatric
  • psychiatric hospital
  • transitional care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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