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Practical tips for better handoffs

July 2008

Published in the July 2008 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

THE ORGANIZATION responsible for improving patient safety in the nation’s hospitals has just released a new publication targeting problems with handoffs.

“Handoff Communications: Toolkit for Implementing the National Patient Safety Goal,” published by Joint Commission Resources, tackles the thorny issue of handoffs in the hospital setting. Statistics from The Joint Commission show that up to 70% of adverse events reported to the organization’s sentinel event database list problems with handoff communication as one of the root causes.

The book’s three chapters give readers an overview of handoff issues, a description of the tools and techniques that hospitals around the country are using to confront those issues, and strategies that hospitals can customize and implement.

Instead of providing a broad overview of the problem, the toolkit outlines practical tactics that readers can use. An accompanying CD-ROM contains handouts, worksheets, videos, forms and slideshow presentations.

“This is a pragmatic book that offers very specific tools to improve various types of handoffs,” says Deborah M. Nadzam, PhD, practice leader of patient safety services at Joint Commission Resources, which is a non-profit affiliate of The Joint Commission.

“It’s intended to address the various types of handoffs, whether it’s nurse to nurse, shift to shift, or doctor to doctor.” Dr. Nadzam notes that the toolkit is designed to be used to meet The Joint Commission’s national patient safety goal that calls on hospitals to standardize handoffs and to give clinicians a chance to ask and respond to questions during handoffs. “The toolkit gives health care organizations the tools and strategies they need,” she says, “to meet this goal.”

The toolkit sells for $199. More information is online at www.jcrinc.com.