Better Communication During Patient Handoffs

handoff.jpgBetter communication between healthcare workers, in the form of verbal and written communication can help reduce the number of medical errors and injuries by as much as 30%. This is especially true during patient handoffs, the time when doctors or nurses hand over care to a new shift of care providers or if the patient is handed off to another unit in the hospital.

That data comes from a new study led by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital. They found that an effective communication system for patient care among healthcare providers can significantly reduce medical errors. The researchers utilzed a new system called I-PASS. The I-Pass system uses bundled communication techniques as well as handoff tools for patient healthcare providers to increase patient safety, without placing an additional burden on the existing workflow in the facility.

According to the researchers, 80% of medical errors are due to a lack of effective communication among healthcare providers in the hospital. Over the study period, the researchers found that using this new handoff system, the rate of medical errors dropped by 23%: Dropping from 24.5 per 100 patients, to 18.5 for 100 patients after the system was introduced.

Many communication failures occur during patient stays in the hospital but the handoff is one of the most critical times for communicating information. For example, when one nurse begins her shift and does not receive important information about a patient’s care from the nurse ending the previous shift, the patient’s care is adversely impacted. Those errors can be serious or even fatal.

In the study, researchers wanted to see how better communication during handoffs could help reduce the risk of errors during this critical period. The study involved a multicenter team, which designed a system that targeted the improvement of patient safety. The researchers found that that the most common cause of errors were lack of standardized communication as well as lack of handoff training for employees.

The I-PASS system aims to address these deficiencies by including a standardized communication process and better handoff training, as well as computerized handoff tools. The system also includes a verbal handoff process that is organized around the I-PASS term –Illness severity, Patient summary, Action lists, Situational awareness, and contingency planning Synthesis by receiver. The system also includes the participation of attending physicians who must supervise and observe the communication between personnel during handoffs. Finally, the system includes a campaign that effectively promotes the adoption of the system across the facility.

Better communication is critical to improving patient safety and healthy outcomes. The attorneys at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy, LLP applaud any effort to help keep patients safe.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries as a result of medical negligence by doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, you may be able to recover compensation for your damages. Speak to an Indiana medical malpractice lawyer at about filing a claim for compensation.