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Hosp Pediatr. 2015 Mar;5(3):127-33. doi: 10.1542/hpeds.2014-0067.

Improving resident handoffs for children transitioning from the intensive care unit.

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Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio.



Handoffs ensure patient safety during patient care transitions in the hospital setting. At our institution, verbal handoffs communicated by resident physicians are suggested practice for patients transferring from the PICU to the hospital medicine (HM) service. Despite their importance, these verbal handoffs occurred only 76% of the time before patient arrival on HM units. Our goal was to increase the completion rate of verbal handoffs to 100% within 5 months.


Baseline data were collected in a daily survey of HM residents. Interventions were developed and tested on small, incremental change cycles. Key interventions included education about the importance of handoffs, standardization of the handoff process, standardization of handoff documentation, and identification and mitigation of handoff documentation failures. We tracked handoff completion rates by using statistical control charts. After success with improving the completion rate of patient handoffs to the HM service, we applied our process to handoffs from the PICU to all inpatient services.


Median completion of verbal patient handoff increased from 76% to 100% within 6 weeks, with improvement sustained for 15 months. Physician compliance with electronic medical record documentation increased from 58% to 94% within 8 months. After spreading to all patients transferring out of the PICU, documentation of patient handoffs increased from 76% to 94% in 5 months.


A system using improvement science methods was successful in increasing the reliability of resident verbal patient handoffs. Consistent documentation and internal redundancy with checklists were associated with sustained improvement.


PICU; hospital medicine; patient handoff; patient safety; resident; transfers

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