Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Implementing receiver-driven handoffs to the emergency department to reduce miscommunication


Background Miscommunications during care transfers are a leading cause of medical errors. Recent consensus-based recommendations to standardise information transfer from outpatient clinics to the emergency department (ED) have not been formally evaluated. We sought to determine whether a receiver-driven structured handoff intervention is associated with 1) increased inclusion of standardised elements; 2) reduced miscommunications and 3) increased perceived quality, safety and efficiency.

Methods We conducted a prospective intervention study in a paediatric ED and affiliated clinics in 2016–2018. We developed a bundled handoff intervention included a standard template, receiver training, awareness campaign and iterative feedback. We assessed a random sample of audio-recorded handoffs and associated medical records to measure rates of inclusion of standardised elements and rate of miscommunications. We surveyed key stakeholders pre-intervention and post-intervention to assess perceptions of quality, safety and efficiency of the handoff process.

Results Across 162 handoffs, implementation of a receiver-driven intervention was associated with significantly increased inclusion of important elements, including illness severity (46% vs 77%), tasks completed (64% vs 83%), expectations (61% vs 76%), pending tests (0% vs 64%), contingency plans (0% vs 54%), detailed callback request (7% vs 81%) and synthesis (2% vs 73%). Miscommunications decreased from 48% to 26%, a relative reduction of 23% (95% CI −39% to −7%). Perceptions of quality (35% vs 59%), safety (43% vs 73%) and efficiency (17% vs 72%) improved significantly post-intervention.

Conclusions Implementation of a receiver-driven intervention to standardise clinic-to-ED handoffs was associated with improved communication quality. These findings suggest that expanded implementation of similar programmes may significantly improve the care of patients transferred to the paediatric ED.

  • hand-off
  • ambulatory care
  • emergency department
  • transitions in care

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.