Error-free handoffs: Make sure patients don’t fall through the cracks
Across the continuum of care a multitude of patient handoffs take place. At some teaching hospitals, there are more than 4,000 handoffs a day. And with each handoff, there is a potential for communication failures leading to patient harm. The Joint Commission found that contributing factors to hand-off breakdowns include insufficient or misleading information, absence of safety culture, ineffective communication methods, lack of time, poor timing between sender and receiver, interruptions or distractions, lack of standardized procedures, and insufficient staffing.
The cost of handoff errors
According to the Joint Commission’s evaluation of accredited healthcare organizations, at least 35% of sentinel events can be attributed to handoff errors. And CRICO Strategies’ report, Malpractice risk in communication failures, estimated that communication failures in U.S. hospitals and medical practices were responsible at least in part for 30 percent of all malpractice claims, resulting in 1,744 deaths and $1.7 billion in malpractice costs over five years.
Steps to reduce handoff errors
- Training and monitoring: The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture found that better patient safety can be achieved by a tight focus on improving handoffs through training and monitoring.
- Standardize processes: According to a study by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), 69% of clinical learning environments did not have a standardized handoff process across specialties, and only 20% had some standardization. Just 11% had standardized care transitions.
- Use templates and checklists: To ensure an error-free process, create checklists and templates to help guide your care team through handoffs.
- Continual improvement: Use metrics to identify handoff issues. Analyze potential problems, improve the process, and keep tracking results.
Communication and collaboration technology are part of the solution
Transitioning to a secure messaging platform can help reduce handoff errors and increase the speed of communication. An NIH study found that a switching from pagers to a secure messaging platform resulted in a 59% reduction in communication errors.
These messaging platforms offer HIPAA compliant text messaging on providers’ smartphones. And modern platforms connect with EHRs, enabling teams to share data and documents in a virtual workspace.
A study posted by HIMSS states that “The obvious benefit of time savings that mobile technology provides for everyone was a critical component of the integration of smartphones into the patient care setting. The technology was shown to increase accuracy of, and save time for, communication between and among nurses, care teams, nurses and physicians, and extended-care teams.”
Designed by actual clinicians, Diagnotes is a healthcare-specific platform that helps manage the complexity and urgency of today’s clinical environment. In addition to providing secure communications and telehealth, we deliver a virtual workspace that brings together your care teams to collaborate across units and disciplines. Health systems that use Diagnotes elevate their efficiency, while increasing clinician and patient satisfaction.