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Tips to improve patient handover

One of the most critical moments in the care of any hospitalized patient is the handover and reception of the patient by the medical staff involved. The handoff is when information is transmitted from the physician caring for the patient to another physician who will continue to oversee the care and treatment of the patient. As a definition, the patient handoff is a real-time process where a patient’s care is passed from one provider to another to provide continuity of care during the patient’s hospital stay. Patient safety is affected when the recipient receives information that is inaccurate, incomplete, inadequate, untimely, or irrelevant. Patient handoffs are complex and can be involved in many different ways. Some of the factors that promote errors in patient handoffs include:

– Staff training

– Language barriers

– Cultural barriers

– Lack of adequate documentation and medical records

– Lack of patient handoff protocols. Recommendations for improving patient handoffs

  1. Determine the critical information that should always be communicated during handoffs.

  2. Standardize the communication tools and methods that will be used during handoffs.

  3. Conduct face-to-face handoffs. The written document supports and does not replace direct handover between personnel.

  4. Ensure that the recipient receives at a minimum the critical patient information:

– Name and age of the patient.

– Admission and current diagnosis.

– Allergies.

– Vital signs, a summary of stay, and last 24 hours.

– Latest labs.

– Pending list with a responsible person.

– Contingency plan.

– CPR code status

– Medication list

  1. The receiving physician should make a brief verbal summary of the information received, highlighting the critical points for each patient (closing the communication circle).

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