Web-based handoff tool reduces medical errors at Brigham and Women's Hospital

A research letter published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests an electronic patient record can help hospitals mitigate medical errors during critical handoff times, according to a Kaiser Health News report.

Researchers implemented a web-based handoff tool and training for healthcare professionals and analyzed how the tool affected rates of medical errors in adult medical and surgical patients. From November 2012 to February 2014, researchers tracked 5,407 patients on three general medicine services and two general surgery services at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital. They compared the rate of medical errors that occurred before implementing the web-based handoff tool with the rate that occurred after implementing the tool.

To screen for potential medical errors, the researchers surveyed residents who worked "nightfloat" — midnight to 7 a.m. — and "twilight" — 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. — shifts. Researchers looked for medical errors and then rated those errors in terms of how avoidable they were, according to the report.

The survey ultimately found the number of medical mistakes was cut in half the year after the hospital introduced the web-based handoff tool and taught employees how to use it, Kaiser Health News reports. According to the report, 77 medical errors were identified between November 2012 and February 2013, compared with 45 in the following year.

"As hospital care is increasingly shift-based, a clear and efficient handoff process is vital," according to the report, citing a commentary published alongside the study. "[This] study … shows how web-based handoff tools may improve hospital workflow and patient safety, but only if they are carefully built and integrated into existing systems."



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