A Word from Our Chief Medical Officer
Better Patient Handoffs Mean Safer Patient Care
- January 28, 2022
- by James Barr, DVM, DACVECC, Chief Medical Officer
We know all too well that medical errors are common in both human and veterinary medicine. A substantial percentage of medical errors are related to communication failure, especially during patient rounding (otherwise known as patient handoff) and pose a high risk to patient safety. Our goal, as healthcare professionals, is to minimize these events.
In human health care, implementing an “oral sign-out” skills curriculum in hospitals has been shown to decrease medical errors and improve patient outcomes by reducing communication error. One such curriculum is the I-PASS handoff technique, which was associated with a 40% reduction in medical errors in a human hospital pilot study setting.
I-PASS is an evidence-based tool used in human healthcare to transfer information efficiently and effectively. We have adapted this tool for veterinary medicine, and it is used for both verbal and written handoffs.
We are introducing the patient handoff initiative into selected BluePearl hospitals. The goals of the program include:
Hospital-wide multi-service patient handoff rounds are also an ideal structure within which we can foster team collaboration and learning and encourage a collaborative approach to case management and teamwork culture.
I-PASS stands for:
I – Illness Severity
P – Patient Summary
A – Acton List
S – Situation Awareness and Contingency Planning
S – Synthesis by Receiver
With a focus on risk stratification, I-PASS helps caregivers with early identification of patients most likely to decompensate and prompts them to provide contingency plans should the patient’s condition worsen.
The toolkit includes a pocket card and posters for easy reference.
Each BluePearl hospital in the program will have handoff Champions who will perform key duties that include ensuring all I-PASS handoff elements are included in every patient handoff, leading debriefs, identifying hurdles and utilizing the project tools. In general, champions will be individuals that understand hospital workflows and the rounds project goals. The success of this initiative depends on the hospital embracing the new patient handoff process and the Champions will work to facilitate the change through regularly communicating rounds goals and leading by example.
Handoff Champions can be any influential person in the hospital who can get buy-in from clinicians, as they are critical to the success of the initiative. When rounds apply to other settings or teams, the Champion group will be adjusted to reflect the needed content expertise of the group performing rounds – for example, influential nursing leaders for nursing rounds.
I-PASS offers evidence-based improvements in patient safety across a variety of care settings and provider roles and is well-suited to specialty and ER. The safety of our patients is paramount, and we are dedicated to making handoffs a cultural priority in the hospital. As always, thank you for your partnership. We are proud to work with you as an extension of your practice.