Monday January 21st 2019

Tackling miscommunication among caregivers

An estimated 80 percent of serious medical errors involve miscommunication between caregivers when patients are transferred or handed off. In addition to patient harm, defective hand-offs can lead to delays in treatment, inappropriate treatment and increased length of stay in the hospital.

To help prevent miscommunication-related errors, the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare released a new Hand-off Communications Targeted Solutions Tool™ (TST) to assist health care organizations with the process of passing necessary and critical information about a patient from one caregiver to the next, or from one team of caregivers to another.

The Hand-off Communication TST was created to measure the effectiveness of handoffs within an organization or to another facility, and provide proven solutions to improve performance. Using the tool and the solutions from the Center’s Hand-off Communications Project, health care organizations have reduced readmissions by 50 percent, and have reduced the time it takes to move a patient from the emergency department to an inpatient unit by 33 percent. Health care organizations also reported an increase in patient and family satisfaction; staff satisfaction; and successful transfers of patients.

The TST is an application that guides health care organizations through a step-by-step process to accurately measure their organization’s actual performance, identify their barriers to excellent performance, and direct them to proven solutions that are customized to address their particular barriers.

The universal experience of the health care organizations that built and tested the TST for Hand-off Communications was that senders and receivers had very different expectations of what constituted a successful hand-off. Using the TST, these organizations aligned expectations of the hand-off, developed a process for a successful hand-off, and fostered better relationships and communication among staff.

The Hand-off Communications TST:

• Facilitates the examination of the current hand-off communication between two settings of care from the viewpoints of both the senders and receivers involved in the process.

• Provides a tested and validated measurement system that produces data that support and drive the need for improving the current hand-off communication processes.

• Identifies areas of focus, such as the specific information needed for the transition that is being measured. For example, the information needed for a hand-off from the emergency department to an inpatient unit differs from that needed for a hand-off from a hospital to a skilled nursing facility.

• Provides customizable forms for data collection to fit the specific needs of the transition being measured.

• Provides guidelines to determine the most appropriate and realistic hand-off communication process for a given transition, while also empowering the staff involved in the process.

All of the hand-off communications solutions that were developed by the Center and the leading hospitals can be found on the Center website at www.centerfortransforminghealthcare.org.

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