Physicians’ perspectives on continuity of care for patients involved in the criminal justice system: A qualitative study

Latasha Jennings, Carolina R Fernandez Branson, Andrea M. Maxwell, Tyler N Winkelman, Rebecca J. Shlafer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background In 2016, over 11 million individuals were admitted to prisons and jails in the United States. Because the majority of these individuals will return to the community, addressing their health needs requires coordination between community and correctional health care providers. However, few systems exist to facilitate this process and little is known about how physicians perceive and manage these transitions. Objective The goal of this study was to characterize physicians’ views on transitions both into and out of incarceration and describe how knowledge of a patient’s criminal justice involvement impacts patient care plans. Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted between October 2018 and May 2019 with physicians from three community clinics in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Team members used a hybrid approach of deductive and inductive coding, in which a priori codes were defined based on the interview guide while also allowing for data-driven codes to emerge. Results Four themes emerged related to physicians’ perceptions on continuity of care for patients with criminal justice involvement. Physicians identified disruptions in patient-physician relationships, barriers to accessing prescription medications, disruptions in insurance coverage, and problems with sharing medical records, as factors contributing to discontinuity of care for patients entering and exiting incarceration. These factors impacted patients differently depending on the direction of the transition. Conclusions Our findings identified four disruptions to continuity of care that physicians viewed as key barriers to successful transitions into and out of incarceration. These disruptions are unlikely to be effectively addressed at the provider level and will require system-level changes, which Medicaid and managed care organizations could play a leading role in developing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0254578
JournalPloS one
Issue number7 July
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2021 Jennings et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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