Avoidable care transitions: A consensus-based definition using a Delphi technique


Background and Objectives

Older adults are at increased risk of frequent transitions between care settings, even though some care transitions are avoidable. The term “avoidable care transitions” is not clearly defined in the research literature. This study aimed to find a consensus-based definition for “avoidable care transitions.”

Research Design and Methods

This study was conducted as part of the TRANS-SENIOR research network. A four-round Delphi survey was based on a literature review that identified existing definitions of “avoidable care transitions.” Articles in MEDLINE via PubMed and CINAHL were searched. Ninety-five references were included, and 106 definitions were identified. Definitions were coded to find themes, resulting in three themes with two codes for each.


In total, 99 experts from nine countries were invited, and the response rates in Delphi rounds 1, 2, 3, and 4 were 37.5%, 19.1%, 33.3%, and 23.3%, respectively. Upon reaching the predefined minimum of 90% agreement, the following definition was declared as final: “Avoidable care transitions 1) are without significant patient-relevant benefits or with a risk of harm outweighing patient-relevant benefits and/or 2) are when a comparable health outcome could be achieved in lower resource settings using the resources available in that place/health care system and/or 3) violate a patient's/informal caregiver´s preference or an agreed care plan.”

Discussion and Implications

Consensus on a definition for “avoidable care transitions” was reached by a multidisciplinary and international panel of experts comprising researchers and providers. The resulting definition consists of three distinct dimensions relating to the balance of benefit and harm to a patient, resource consumption, and a patient's or informal caregiver's preferences. The new definition might enhance the common understanding of avoidable care transitions and is now ready for application in research and quality and safety management in health care.

Author: Rustem Makhmutov, Gabriele Meyer, Moriah E Ellen, Steffen Fleischer

Title: Avoidable care transitions: A consensus-based definition using a Delphi technique

Published in: Innovation in Aging

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