Standardizing Handoff Communication Improves Patient Safety

Handoffs occur when a patient’s care is transitioned from one provider to another. This happens at shift changes and during transfers from one care area to another or from one facility to another. Medical errors can happen as the result of miscommunication during this critical timeframe. Ensuring that pertinent information is provided to the individual(s) assuming the care of the patient is essential, and standardizing handoff communication is an important way to improve patient safety.

Recently, Science Daily published an article on standardized protocol for the patient handoff. According to the piece, based on current research, the most successful handoffs utilize “protocols that include 12 or more pieces of information (e.g., allergies, chief complaint, current medications).” Authors of the study say, “Protocols go a long way toward removing subjectivity about what constitutes important details regard a patient’s care, fostering a shared mental model among caregivers, and eliminating the need to rely on memory alone.”