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Navigating A Sea Of Definitions

In this video, Dr Riaz Aziz, explains the various definitions used in transfer medicine

Before we can talk about performing a critical care patient transfer we need to know what this really means.

At its core, transfer medicine refers to the transport of a patient from one place to another – this may be from one flat surface to another (e.g. bed to stretcher) or from one healthcare facility to another.
  • Typically, when healthcare professionals refer to a transfer, they imply the transport of a patient from one healthcare facility to another. However, there is an ocean of definitions across the literature and a multitude of classification systems to describe a patient ‘transfer’.
  • So to get us started, watch this short video produced by the North Central London Adult Critical Care Transfer Service (NCl-ACTS) to set out what we mean by the term transfer and the different types that can occur.
Dr Aziz refers in the video to the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine Guidelines on the transfer of the critically ill adult which is an excellent resource and can be downloaded at the bottom of this step.

Some Key Points

Transfer and retrieval jobs can be classified as either primary missions or secondary transfers which can be further classified based on their purpose.
  • Primary transfer is usually under the remit of pre-hospital care services.
  • Secondary transfers involve the movement of a patient from one health care facility to another, for continuing clinical care and is generally termed an inter-hospital transfer.
  • Transfers within a hospital are called intra-hospital transfers – these are extremely common and frequent for many patients on intensive care units but it’s important to remember that whether you are moving a critically ill patient 1 metre or 10,000 metres the principles of safe transfer medicine are the same.
Using clear terminology and a common understanding of the terms improves communication and clarity amongst the whole multidisciplinary team

As well as a variety of different transfer definitions, there is an impressive range of methods to transfer patients. In the next step we’ll explore the more common ways to transfer patients to and from health care facilities.

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A Journey Through Transfer Medicine

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