UMMS Affiliation

Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences; Department of Medicine; Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

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Document Type



Epidemiology | Health Services Administration | Health Services Research | Pain Management


BACKGROUND: After hospital discharge, patients can experience symptoms prompting them to seek acute medical attention. Early evaluation of patients' post-discharge symptoms by healthcare providers may improve appropriate healthcare utilization and patient safety. Post-discharge follow-up phone calls, which are used for routine transitional care in U.S. hospitals, serve as an important channel for provider-patient communication about symptoms. This study aimed to assess the facilitators and barriers to evaluating and triaging pain symptoms in cardiovascular patients through follow-up phone calls after their discharge from a large healthcare system in Central Massachusetts. We also discuss strategies that may help address the identified barriers.

METHODS: Guided by the Practical, Robust, Implementation and Sustainability Model (PRISM), we completed semi-structured interviews with 7 nurses and 16 patients in 2020. Selected nurses conducted (or supervised) post-discharge follow-up calls on behalf of 5 clinical teams (2 primary care; 3 cardiology). We used thematic analysis to identify themes from interviews and mapped them to the domains of the PRISM model.

RESULTS: Participants described common facilitators and barriers related to the four domains of PRISM: Intervention (I), Recipients (R), Implementation and Sustainability Infrastructure (ISI), and External Environment (EE). Facilitators include: (1) patients being willing to receive provider follow-up (R); (2) nurses experienced in symptom assessment (R); (3) good care coordination within individual clinical teams (R); (4) electronic health record system and call templates to support follow-up calls (ISI); and (5) national and institutional policies to support post-discharge follow-up (EE). Barriers include: (1) limitations of conducting symptom assessment by provider-initiated follow-up calls (I); (2) difficulty connecting patients and providers in a timely manner (R); (3) suboptimal coordination for transitional care among primary care and cardiology providers (R); and (4) lack of emphasis on post-discharge follow-up call reimbursement among cardiology clinics (EE). Specific barriers for pain assessment include: (1) concerns with pain medication misuse (R); and (2) no standardized pain assessment and triage protocol (ISI).

CONCLUSIONS: Strategies to empower patients, facilitate timely patient-provider communication, and support care coordination regarding pain evaluation and treatment may reduce the barriers and improve processes and outcomes of pain assessment and triage.


Cardiovascular disease, Natural language processing, Pain, Qualitative, Symptom assessment, Transitional care

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2021. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

DOI of Published Version



Chen J, Wijesundara JG, Patterson A, Cutrona SL, Aiello S, McManus DD, McKee MD, Wang B, Houston TK. Facilitators and barriers to post-discharge pain assessment and triage: a qualitative study of nurses' and patients' perspectives. BMC Health Serv Res. 2021 Sep 28;21(1):1021. doi: 10.1186/s12913-021-07031-w. PMID: 34583702; PMCID: PMC8480104. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

BMC health services research

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.