Interhospital transfer is an important but resource-intensive pattern of care. The use for stroke patients is highly dependent upon health system structure. We examined the impact of hospital transfers for stroke care in Canada.
We analyzed hospital administrative data within the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) Database for the 3 fiscal years 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14. Patients with clinical stroke syndrome (ischemic or hemorrhagic) were identified using International Classification of Diseases. Stroke centers were defined by Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada stroke report.
During the 3-year period,397 patients in Canada (excluding Quebec) were admitted to hospital for clinical stroke syndrome. Median age was 75 (interquartile range [IQR] 64–84) years; 50.6 % were male. Less than 5% (n=4030) of patients were transferred. Patients transferred to stroke centers were younger (p<0.001) and had shorter median length of stay (p<0.001). The highest probability of discharge home was associated with sole care at stroke center (43.8%). Transfer to stroke center from community hospital had the highest probability for discharge to rehabilitation facility (25%) and lowest to either long-term (2.1%) or complex community care (2.0%). Transferred patients had lower mortality at discharge.
Younger patients were transferred more frequently to stroke centers; older patients were more likely treated in community hospitals. Sole stroke center care was associated with high discharge rate to home; transfer to a stroke center was associated with high discharge rate to rehabilitation and lower mortality rates.