Vital Signs Blog

Multipronged program improves patient handoffs, researchers say

Researchers from Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School say a multipronged program that includes staff education, improved oversight and use of an electronic tool can improve the process by which clinicians transfer responsibility for a patient to one another.

Inadequate patient handoffs are being increasingly targeted by hospitals and patient-safety groups as a common cause of errors. According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers instituted a number of changes at Boston Children's aimed at smoothing and standardizing handoffs, including relocating handoff communication to a quiet space and using a computerized handoff tool, embedded in the electronic health record.

Medical errors dropped to 18.3 per 100 admissions, down from 33.8 per 100 admissions, and preventable adverse events decreased to 1.5 per 100 admissions, down from 3.3, following the introduction of the program, the researcher said.

“Given the increasing frequency of handoffs in hospitals following resident work-hour reductions and the high frequency with which miscommunications lead to serious medical errors, disseminating high-quality handoff improvement programs has the potential for benefit,” they wrote.

Follow Maureen McKinney on Twitter: @MHMMcKinney


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