Better Handoffs

Hospitalists explore new tech and face-to-face strategies

A significant percentage of avoidable adverse events in hospitals can be traced back to poor communication during patient handoffs, according to a number of studies, yet there are no universal standards for how that process should occur.

In fact, the ideal handoff may be different for each institution, experts say. Many hospitals now use computerized tools integrated with their electronic health records (EHRs) that allow clinicians to enter key clinical information and notes to facilitate handoffs. However while such tools offer a potential solution, they appear to work best as a supplement to—not a replacement for—face-to-face communication.

“Electronic tools and standardized curricula are very helpful, but they don't seem to reduce the number of adverse outcomes,” said Richard Frankel, PhD, professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis and a core investigator at the Veterans Administration's (VA) Center for Health Information and Communication. “The quality of the handoff is also affected by different styles and personal preferences of physicians as well as different institutional cultures.”

Read the full article in ACP Hospitalist.

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