Background: The Joint Commission has made a "standardized approach to hand-off communications" a National Patient Safety Goal.
Method: An interactive 90-minute workshop (hand-off clinic) was developed in 2005 to (1) develop a standardized process for the handoff, (2) create a checklist of critical patient content, and (3) plan for dissemination and training.
Conclusion: To date, 7 of 10 residency programs have participated. Analysis of these protocols demonstrated that the hand-off process is highly variable and discipline-specific. Although all disciplines required a verbal handoff, because of competing demands, verbal communication did not always occur. In some cases, the transfer of professional responsibility was separated in time and space from the transfer of information. For example, in two cases, patient tasks were assigned to other team members to facilitate timely departure of a postcall resident (to meet resident duty-hour restrictions), but results were not formally communicated to anyone. The hand-off clinic facilitated the incorporation of "closed-loop" communication by requiring that follow-up on these tasks be conveyed to the on-call resident.
Discussion: This model for design and implementation can be applied to other health care settings.