I was reminded of a hospital experience many years ago after reading ECRI Institute’s 2015 report about patient handoffs. Several years ago, I ended up in the Emergency Department after dislocating my shoulder. After a failed ‘Mel Gibson-style’ self-repositioning attempt, I decided to undergo the recommended minor procedure to reposition my dislocation. As my consciousness began to return, I found myself in a bed, alone, and parked in a hospital hallway where I stayed for some time. This was a rather unsettling experience that has stuck with me over the years. I don’t recall receiving a patient satisfaction survey in the mail post treatment, but every time HCAHPS is brought up, I can relate!
In the grand scheme of things, my solo hallway recovery experience can be chalked up to mere patient dissatisfaction compared to the safety concerns and poor outcomes that have been reported as a result of failed and inadequate transport handoffs. Those handoffs are especially risky for patients needing life support, active monitoring, and those requiring immediate attention in the new care area. These risks are why the ECRI Institute listed “Inadequate Patient Handoffs Related to Patient Transports” as number 9 on its “Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns for Healthcare Organizations” list for 2015.
So, why are transport handoffs so risky? First off, they are complex. They involve coordination across multiple departments, locations, and numerous disciplines, including: sending and receiving clinicians, unit administrators, the transport dispatcher, a transporter, central supply staff for equipment needs, and more. Safe and adequate handoffs require timely orchestration of patient information, clinical context, caregivers, and medical devices. Another challenge is ensuring the right information about the right patient is communicated to the correct clinician and transporters, at the right time – to help ensure the right receiving staff and equipment is ready. Indeed, this is a challenging ‘symphony’ to orchestrate.
I have empathy for all the nurses, unit administrators, and transporters who are still using disparate and aging technology to communicate, such as pagers, landlines, fax machines, and EHR terminals. I also have empathy for the patients. Don’t we all deserve better?
A mobile tool for a mobile process
In its report, ECRI notes that “a standardized process for patient transport and handoff communication can reduce risk during transport and at the sending and receiving ends of the process.” I’m certain that PatientTouch Communications can help bridge many of the gaps discussed. Be it secure group texting, tagging patient and clinical context to messages, or one-touch access for care team communication, smart mobile solutions should certainly be evaluated for standardizing handoff processes between sending and receiving departments. Clinicians will also appreciate a communication tool that is rich in context and real-time information, such as equipment and monitoring needs and readiness notification of transporters to receiving department, so they can safely receive the patient and transport team (and ensure no patients are left in hallways unattended).
PatientTouch Communications, a smart, unified, and connected clinical communication solution, can help enhance patient transfers and handoffs by providing patient-specific and clinically handoff-relevant information to the entire ‘Handoff Care Team.’ The result is a Connected Patient Care network created by the unified clinical communication solution that connects caregivers and care teams across the entire health system in a unique, patient-centered way. The solution also provides a mobile view (mView) into EMR details, which can help sending and receiving clinical teams communicate pertinent information related to the handoff, including: ‘eSBAR forms’, checklists, and multi-media file attachments.
Creating an informed and smooth handoff process requires communication, coordination and connected care teams. With PatientTouch Communications, mobile and desktop-based users alike help ensure the right information, about the right patient is being communicated to the right care team members, with the right priority and at the right time. The enhanced communication and clinical operations coordination helps improve patient transport handoffs, and makes for happier patients, better operational efficiency, and increased patient safety.
Taking the next steps to improve transport handoffs requires us to reconsider our communications systems, processes, and goals – many of which are simply not achievable with disparate pagers, landline phones, faxes, and EHR terminals. PatientTouch Communications by PatientSafe Solutions makes care collaboration smart, mobile, and simple. And trust me, reducing the number of patients left alone in hallways will improve your HCAHPS scores!
This is the final post of the series, “4 Ways Clinical Mobility Protects Patients at your Hospital.” Also see Medication Reconciliation, Data Integrity, and Alarm Hazards as patient safety concerns.