Conversations key to patients’ health in handover processes

Doctor examining patient in hospital room (Thomas Northcut/Getty Images)

In a bid to minimize medical error, leading academic hospitals are developing tools to improve handover communication – timely initiatives considering the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada is set to roll out new standards that include patient handover as a mandatory part of medical residency programs by 2015.

The key to a safe handover? A good conversation.

At the forefront, a collaborative of nine North American pediatric hospitals, including the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, has developed a five-step handover process called I-PASS to help doctors remember the critical components of a successful handover. I-PASS stands for Illness severity, Patient summary, Action list, Situation awareness and contingency planning, and Synthesis by receiver. That means doctors are expected to convey information about the sickest patients first, summarize the patient’s condition, share an action plan for the patient’s care and explain what might happen to the patient in the future. In the last step, the incoming doctor reiterates all the information to make sure it was understood.

Lee Marshall Reports

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