Acute care facilities are connected via patient sharing, forming a network. However, patient sharing extends beyond this immediate network to include sharing with long-term care facilities. The extent of long-term care facility patient sharing on the acute care facility network is unknown. The objective of this study was to characterize and determine the extent and pattern of patient transfers to, from, and between long-term care facilities on the network of acute care facilities in a large metropolitan county.
We applied social network constructs principles, measures, and frameworks to all 2007 annual adult and pediatric patient transfers among the healthcare facilities in Orange County, California, using data from surveys and several datasets. We evaluated general network and centrality measures as well as individual ego measures and further constructed sociograms. Our results show that over the course of a year, 66 of 72 long-term care facilities directly sent and 67 directly received patients from other long-term care facilities. Long-term care facilities added 1,524 ties between the acute care facilities when ties represented at least one patient transfer. Geodesic distance did not closely correlate with the geographic distance among facilities.
This study demonstrates the extent to which long-term care facilities are connected to the acute care facility patient sharing network. Many long-term care facilities were connected by patient transfers and further added many connections to the acute care facility network. This suggests that policy-makers and health officials should account for patient sharing with and among long-term care facilities as well as those among acute care facilities when evaluating policies and interventions.