News Release
March 6, 2013

Penn Medicine Team Draws Map to Avoid Detours on Road to HIV Treatment Success

Focus on Transitions in Care May Improve Outcomes

PHILADELPHIA — Addressing on the challenges that accompany transitions between health care settings could be a key strategy for improving clinical outcomes for people living with HIV, according to researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The team’s plan, which calls for identifying potential challenges before they occur and preparing to address them, is detailed online in the journal AIDS.

Despite tremendous advances in antiretroviral therapy, studies have shown that only 28 percent of people living with HIV achieve viral suppression. These patients frequently experience transitions in care – upon discharge from the hospital, between pediatric and adult clinics, from prisons into the community, and when changing medical providers due to moves or changes in economic or insurance status – that can hinder efforts in accessing care, receiving antiretroviral therapy, and remaining adherent to treatment. Often, these transitions occur in conjunction with a change in health status or social state. “Transitions are inherently difficult for patients, but are particularly challenging for patients living with HIV who face high rates of poverty, mental illness, and confront HIV-related stigma and discrimination,” the authors write.

These transitions in care may lead to medication errors, difficulty securing housing and employment, insurance hurdles, and problems establishing connections with new providers or related social services. To tackle the challenges associated with making these transitions, the Penn researchers suggest the adoption of a Dynamic Behavioral Model in which patients, providers, and caregivers work together to anticipate challenges that may occur during care transitions, and develop proactive solutions to address them.

“It’s important for medical providers to remember that management of our patients is not confined to a particular health setting,” says lead author Baligh Yehia, MD, MPP, MSHP, an instructor in the division of Infectious Diseases. “But rather, we are a part of team that is responsible for the continuous management of our patients between and across different health setting and providers.”

Improving case management and providing patient navigation to support and guide patients – particularly following hospitalizations -- have proven to be effective strategies for boosting retention in care and improving clinical outcomes, which the authors suggest may be buoyed further by the incorporation of “pre-transfer” visits in which patients meet with both their old and new care teams. For patients transitioning between adolescent clinics to adult care settings, the team recommends that providers work to help young patients develop the skills to manage their health care on their own, and developing an individualized timeframe to ensure patients are prepared to transfer. Effective communication between providers is also essential: Health care organizations and providers should standardize the information necessary for transfer, and leverage health information technology to ensure secure information exchange that maintains proper patient confidentiality.

Co-authors of the paper are Perelman School of Medicine faculty Shreya Kangovi, MD, and Ian Frank, MD.

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Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.

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