DOI: 10.1111/ajr.13080 ISSN: 1038-5282

Optimising acute non‐critical inter‐hospital transfers: A review of evidence, practice and patient perspectives

Breanna Wright, Tim Baker, Alyse Lennox, Bruce Waxman, Peter Bragge
  • Family Practice
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health



Patients who present to hospital with an acute non‐critical illness or injury, which is considered outside the capability framework of that hospital to treat, will require inter‐hospital transfer (IHT) to a hospital with a higher level of capability for that condition. Delays in IHT can negatively impact patient care and patient outcomes.


To review and synthesis academic evidence, practitioner insights and patient perspectives on ways to improve IHT from regional to metro hospitals.


A rapid review methodology identified one review and 14 primary studies. Twelve practitioner interviews identified insights into practice and implementation, and the patient perspectives were explored through a citizen panel with 15 participants.


The rapid review found evidence relating to clinician and patient decision factors, protocols, communication practices and telemedicine. Practitioner interviews revealed challenges in making the initial decision, determining appropriate destinations and dealing with pushback. Adequate support and communication were raised as important to improve IHT. The citizen panel found that the main concern with IHT was delays. Citizen panel participants suggested dedicated transfer teams, education and information transfer systems to improve IHT.

Discussion and Conclusion

Common challenges in IHT include making the initial decision to transfer and communicating with other health services and patients and families. In identifying the appropriateness of transferring acute non‐critical patients, clear and effective communication is central to appropriate and timely IHT; this evidence review indicates that education, protocols and information management could make IHT processes smoother.

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