Medical Insurance Expert Witness On Handoff Communications Part 1

In Handoff Communication, medical insurance expert witness Ms. Kathy G. Ferrell, BS, RN, LNCC writes:

Handoff communication is simply the relay of information from one healthcare provider to another. Every day nurses are responsible for relaying information regarding patient care to physicians, nurses, radiology, laboratory, dietary and many other health care providers.

A breakdown in this communication has been reported by The Joint Commission (accrediting body for hospitals) as the root cause of 65% of adverse events that occur in hospitals. In 2006 The Joint Commission mandated that hospitals improve the effectiveness of handoff communication including a process whereas the healthcare provider had an opportunity to ask questions and have them answered.

Literature reports several tools that have been developed in hospitals to improve handoff communication. One such tool used when patients are being transported to radiology or other departments within the hospital is called a “round trip ticket”, a one page, patient-information sheet that provides basic patient information. Simple questions are answered by checking off boxes. For example: Can the patient ambulate and transfer independently? The nurse completes the top portion of the ticket before the patient leaves the nursing unit. Someone in the receiving unit completes the bottom portion of the ticket to relay pertinent information back to the patient’s nurse. This format is used to inform the patient’s nurse about any important event or changes in the patient’s condition that occurred while he was away from the unit.
Names of all staff members involved in the patient care are included on the form for any questions that might arise.