Boston Children's Hospital Study: Better Communication During Patient Hand-offs Reduced Errors by 30%

According to a study led by researchers at Boston's Children's Hospital, improvements in verbal and written communication between health care providers during patient hand-offs can reduce injuries due to medical errors by 30 percent. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), study results show that I-PASS  — a bundled system of communication and training tools for hand-off of patient care between providers — can greatly increase patient safety without significantly burdening existing clinical workflows.

A press release issued in conjunction with the study's publication states that medical errors in hospitals such as diagnostic delays, preventable surgical complications and medication overdoses are leading causes of death and injury in the U.S. An estimated 80 percent of the most serious medical errors can be linked to communication between clinicians, particularly during patient hand-offs.

I-PASS was designed with the goal of improving patient safety and reducing or eliminating the most common source of medical errors through improved provider-to-provider communication. I-PASS consists of:
  • Standardized communication and hand-off training
  • A verbal hand-off process organized around the verbal mnemonic "I-PASS" (Illness severity, Patient summary, Action list, Situational awareness and contingency planning, and Synthesis by receiver)
  • Computerized hand-off tools to share patient information between providers using an I-PASS structure
  • Engagement of supervising attending physicians to observe and oversee hand-off communications
  • A campaign promoting the adoption of I-PASS as part of institutional process and culture
For more information on this patient safety initiative, please see: www.ipasshandoffstudy.com, and the full press release.

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