Original Study| Volume 22, ISSUE 6, P1248-1254.e3, June 2021

How Context Influences Hospital Readmissions from Skilled Nursing Facilities: A Rapid Ethnographic Study

Published:September 14, 2020DOI:



      Improving hospital discharge processes and reducing adverse outcomes after hospital discharge to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are gaining national recognition. However, little is known about how the social-contextual factors of hospitals and their affiliated SNFs may influence the discharge process and drive variations in patient outcomes. We sought to categorize contextual drivers that vary between high- and low-performing hospitals in older adult transition from hospitals to SNFs.


      To identify contextual drivers, we used a rapid ethnographic approach with interviews and direct observations of hospital and SNF clinicians involved in discharging patients. We conducted thematic analysis to categorize contextual factors and compare differences in high- and low-performing sites.

      Setting and Participants

      We stratified hospitals on 30-day hospital readmission rates from SNFs and used convenience sampling to identify high- and low-performing sites and associated SNFs. The final sample included 4 hospitals (n = 2 high performing, n = 2 low performing) and affiliated SNFs (n = 5) with 148 hours of observations.


      Central themes related to how contextual factors influence variations in high- and low-performing hospitals.


      We identified 3 main contextual factors that differed across high- and low-performing hospitals and SNFs: team dynamics, patient characteristics, and organizational context. First, we observed high-quality communication, situational awareness, and shared mental models among team members in high-performing sites. Second, the types of patients cared for at high-performing hospitals had better insurance coverage that made it feasible for clinicians to place patients based on their needs instead of financial abilities. Third, at high-performing hospitals a more engaged staff in the transition process and building rapport with SNFs characterized smooth transitions from hospitals to SNFs.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Contextual factors distinguish high- and low-performing hospitals in transitions to SNF and can be used to develop interventions to reduce adverse outcomes in transitions.


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