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Better Nursing Staff Handoffs May Lead to Improving Patient Care

National attention on reducing the rate of hospital readmissions has begun to narrow its focus on the role of hospital nursing staff handoffs, whose performance, researchers say, may be key to improving patient care and reducing the Medicare budget. However, more studies show that ensuring quality nursing staff handoffs is not a priority for most hospitals.

Nursing Handoff

A recent study from the Journal of Nursing Care Quality finds that by including patients in bedside handoffs during shift changes nurses can have an enormous impact on improving quality care. Bedside handoffs–when the responsibility of a patient’s care is transferred from one nurse to another, usually during shift changes–are known as hot spots of information loss. Communication between nursing staff during the hectic time of beginning or ending a shift poses a huge threat to any nuanced information about a patient that may not have been included in written records.

By casting patients in a more involved role in the bedside handoff process, patients develop an increased awareness and better understanding of their care and can reinforce communication between nursing staff. Actively engaged patients can discuss questions and concerns with their assigned nurses, and increasing quality communication means increasing quality care.

With the important role that nursing staff handoffs play in increasing quality care, reducing hospital readmissions, and the subsequent avoidance of Medicare associated fees and fines, one would assume that hospitals would put significant emphasis on ensuring that this process is effective. However, according to the results of a survey published in the American Journal of Medical Quality, hospital emergency departments don’t see it this way. The numbers are astounding:

  • More than 55% of hospital emergency departments don’t have a standardized nursing handoff protocol.
  • Of the hospitals that do have a standard handoff protocol, nearly 60% report that they do not use it regularly.
  • Only 12.5% of emergency medicine residency programs offer handoff training.

Post-hospitalist specialists General Medicine offers services that provide solutions for these unsettling statistics and improve quality care in order to reduce rates of hospital readmissions. The ultimate goal of their integrated care program is to improve care coordination through a team-oriented delivery system that addresses individual needs. A large part of the success of this coordination is working with hospital nursing staff to develop, improve and standardize a patient-centered handoff protocol method that effects patient engagement and reduces hospital readmissions.

General Medicine also offers nurse practitioner services that work with established methods of nursing staff handoff protocol and subscribe to the philosophy of patient engagement. Specializing in post-acute and long-term patient care, General Medicine knows that good communication amongst healthcare professionals as well as between patients and staff is essential to cost-effective, quality patient care. See how you can improve the quality of your medical services and  contact General Medicine today.

Tom Prose