Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Supporting continuity of care between prison and the community for women in prison: a medical record review

Penelope Abbott A D , Parker Magin B , Sanja Lujic C and Wendy Hu A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia. Email: w.hu@westernsydney.edu.au

B School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, Newbolds Building, University Drive, Newcastle, NSW 2308, Australia. Email: parker.magin@newcastle.edu.au

C Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW Australia, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Email: s.lujic@unsw.edu.au

D Corresponding author. Email: p.abbott@westernsydney.edu.au

Australian Health Review 41(3) 268-276 https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16007
Submitted: 6 January 2016  Accepted: 24 May 2016   Published: 29 July 2016

Abstract

Objectives The aim of the present study was to examine health information transfer and continuity of care arrangements between prison and community health care providers (HCPs) for women in prison.

Methods Medical records of women released from New South Wales prisons in 2013–14 were reviewed. Variables included health status, health care in prison and documented continuity of care arrangements, including information transfer between prison and community. Associations were measured by adjusted odds ratios (AORs) using a logistic regression model. Text from the records was collected as qualitative data and analysed to provide explanatory detail.

Results In all, 212 medical records were systematically sampled and reviewed. On prison entry, information was requested from community HCPs in 53% of cases, mainly from general practitioners (GPs, 39%), and was more likely to have occurred for those on medication (AOR 7.08; 95% confidence interval (CI) 3.71, 13.50) or with schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders (AOR 4.20; 95% CI 1.46, 12.11). At release, continuity of care arrangements and health information transfer to GPs were usually linked to formal pre-release healthcare linkage programs. Outside these programs, only 20% of records had evidence of such continuity of care at release, with the odds higher for those on medication (AOR 8.28; 95% CI 1.85, 37.04) and lower for women with problematic substance misuse (AOR 0.32; 95% CI 0.14, 0.72). Few requests for information were received after individuals had been released from custody (5/212; two from GPs).

Conclusion Increased health information transfer to community HCPs is needed to improve continuity of care between prison and community.

What is known about the topic? Many women in prison have high health needs. Health and well being are at further risk at the time of transition between prison and community.

What does this paper add? This study provides evidence that outside formal programs, which are currently available only for a minority of women, continuity of care arrangements and transfer of health information do not usually occur when women leave prison. Pragmatic choices about continuity of care at the interface between prison and community may have been made, particularly focusing on medication continuity. Barriers to continuity of care and ways forward are suggested.

What are the implications for practitioners? Siloing of health care delivered within prison health services through lack of continuity of care at release is wasteful, both in terms of healthcare costs and lost opportunities to achieve health outcomes in a vulnerable population with high health needs. There is need for an increased focus on continuity of care between prison and community health services, HCP support and training and expansion of pre-release planning and healthcare linkage programs to assist larger numbers of women in prison.

Additional keywords: delivery of health care, general practitioners, patient discharge, primary care, prisoners.


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