Children with special health care needs (CSHCN) have frequent hospitalizations and high specialty care utilization. If they initially present to a medical facility not capable of providing their definitive care, these children often experience an interfacility transfer. This transition has potential to impose hardships on familial caregivers. The goal of this study was to explore family–physician interactions during interfacility transfers from the perspectives of referring and accepting physicians and familial caregivers, and then develop a conceptual model for effective patient- and family-centered interfacility transfers that leverages the family–physician interaction.


This single-center qualitative study used grounded theory methods. Interviews were conducted with referring and accepting physicians and the familial caregivers of CSHCN. Four researchers coded the data. The research team reached consensus on the major categories and developed a conceptual model.


Eight referring physicians, 9 accepting physicians, and 8 familial caregivers of 25 CSHCN were interviewed. All participants stated that family–physician interactions during transfers should be improved. Three main categories were developed: shared decision-making, provider awareness of families’ resource needs, and communication. The conceptual model showed that 2-way communication allows providers to gain awareness of families’ needs, which can facilitate shared decision-making, ultimately enhancing effective coordination and patient- and family-centered transfers.


Shared decision-making, provider awareness of families’ resource needs, and communication are perceived as integral aspects of the family–physician interaction during interfacility transfers. Transfer systems should be reengineered to optimize family–physician interactions to make interfacility transfers more patient- and family-centered.

You do not currently have access to this content.