Organizational culture: an important context for addressing and improving hospital to community patient discharge

Gijs Hesselink, Myrra Vernooij-Dassen, Loes Pijnenborg, Paul Barach, Petra Gademan, Ewa Dudzik-Urbaniak, Maria Flink, Carola Orrego, Giulio Toccafondi, Julie K Johnson, Lisette Schoonhoven, Hub Wollersheim, European HANDOVER Research Collaborative

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Organizational culture is seen as having a growing impact on quality and safety of health care, but its impact on hospital to community patient discharge is relatively unknown.

OBJECTIVES: To explore aspects of organizational culture to develop a deeper understanding of the discharge process.

RESEARCH DESIGN: A qualitative study of stakeholders in the discharge process. Grounded Theory was used to analyze the data.

SUBJECTS: In 5 European Union countries, 192 individual and 25 focus group interviews were conducted with patients and relatives, hospital physicians, hospital nurses, general practitioners, and community nurses.

RESULTS: Three themes emerged representing aspects of organizational culture: a fragmented hospital to primary care interface, undervaluing administrative tasks relative to clinical tasks in the discharge process, and lack of reflection on the discharge process or process improvement. Nine categories were identified: inward focus of hospital care providers, lack of awareness to needs, skills, and work patterns of the professional counterpart, lack of a collaborative attitude, relationship between hospital and primary care providers, providing care in a "here and now" situation, administrative work considered to be burdensome, negative attitude toward feedback, handovers at discharge ruled by habits, and appreciating and integrating new practices.

CONCLUSIONS: On the basis of the data, we hypothesize that the extent to which hospital care providers value handovers and the outreach to community care providers is critical to effective hospital discharge. Community care providers often are insufficiently informed about patient outcomes. Ongoing challenges with patient discharge often remain unspoken with opportunities for improvement overlooked. Interventions that address organizational culture as a key factor in discharge improvement efforts are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-8
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Europe
  • Hospital Administration
  • Humans
  • Organizational Culture
  • Patient Discharge
  • Patient Safety
  • Prospective Studies
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Health Care


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