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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


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 (US)
Pages (from-to)90-98
Number of pages9
JournalMedical care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Hospital discharge
  • barriers
  • handover
  • hospital-primary care interface
  • organizational culture
  • patient safety
  • quality of care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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