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Reducing miscommunication in hospital patient transfers

Miscommunication between health-care providers when patients are transferred or handed off accounts for an estimated 80 percent of serious medical errors, according to the Joint Commission, the organization that accredits and certifies U.S. hospitals.

To reduce breakdowns in communication, a group of 10 health-care organizations, including Stanford Hospital & Clinics (SHC), partnered with the Joint Commission on a yearlong project to identify ways to improve patient care. According to an article in today's Inside Stanford Medicine:

SHC, as part of the effort, forged ahead with a pilot hand-off project, focusing on transfers of patients between two intensive care units and two intermediate intensive care units.


The pilot program has been successful in improving hand-offs, and [Patrick Gibbons, MD, physician co-leader of Stanford’s Hand-off Communication Project] believes that the very first step in the change process was one of the most important. "We asked physicians what the problems were and how we could improve the hand-off," he said, "and the solutions came from them."

Hand-offs at the group of hospitals were defective more than 37 percent of the time at the start of the study, but that rate was cut by half over the course of the project.

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