BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE:

Patient handoffs in health care require transfer of information, responsibility, and authority between providers. Suboptimal patient handoffs pose a serious safety risk. Studies demonstrating the impact of improved patient handoffs on care failures are lacking. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of a multihospital collaborative designed to decrease handoff-related care failures.

METHODS:

Twenty-three children’s hospitals participated in a quality improvement collaborative aimed at reducing handoff-related care failures. The improvement was guided by evidence-based recommendations regarding handoff intent and content, standardized handoff tools/methods, and clear transition of responsibility. Hospitals tailored handoff elements to locally important handoff types. Handoff-related care failures were compared between baseline and 3 intervention periods. Secondary outcomes measured compliance to specific change package elements and balancing measure of staff satisfaction.

RESULTS:

Twenty-three children’s hospitals evaluated 7864 handoffs over the 12-month study period. Handoff-related care failures decreased from baseline (25.8%) to the final intervention period (7.9%) (P < .05). Significant improvement was observed in every handoff type studied. Compliance to change package elements improved (achieving a common understanding about the patient from 86% to 96% [P < .05]; clear transition of responsibility from 92% to 96% [P < .05]; and minimized interruptions and distractions from 84% to 90% [P < .05]) as did overall satisfaction with the handoff (from 55% to 70% [P < .05]).

CONCLUSIONS:

Implementation of a standardized evidence-based handoff process across 23 children’s hospitals resulted in a significant decrease in handoff-related care failures, observed over all handoff types. Compliance to critical components of the handoff process improved, as did provider satisfaction.

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