12.01.2009

Nurses Use Technology to Streamline Patient Handoffs

Handoffs can be a problem in any process. They slow down the process, and there is always a risk of communication being incomplete or misunderstood.

An interesting article from Health Leaders Media describes the difficulties involved when nurses on one shift hand off patient information to the next shift at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, IL.


For years, nurses nationwide have used different methods for handling handoff reports. One technology was the use of taped records. This caused problems because if an interruption occurred while the nurse was reporting, the nurse had to make a note on the recorder where the tape left off, causing confusion later on.

There were also instances when the tape recorder broke or someone had recorded over a report, causing the nurses to take more time to re-record each patient report.

More recently, handoffs involved nurse-to-nurse interaction between shifts. As the nightshift was coming on and the day shift was leaving, and vice versa, the nurses discussed each patient and how the shift went.

Although effective, this process takes a lot of time, and many nurses went into overtime at Ingalls.


At Ingalls, Kathleen Mikos, RN, MSN, vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer, came up with a better idea using OptiVox technology from The Whitestone Group.


Nurses can dial into OptiVox and record their patient reports, or listen to the patient reports from any phone in the health system.

Nurses coming off a shift and needing to report on their patients dial in an individual access code, pull up each patient's medical record number, and begin recording a report on that patient…

To identify each patient in the system, Ingalls uses the patient's medical record number to prevent confusion…

When nurses arrive to start their shifts, they can access the reports from the previous shift the same way nurses record them. Using any phone in the health system, the nurse dials in with an individual access code and using his or her patients' medical record number; the nurse can then listen to the reports.


I don’t view technology as a panacea, but when used properly, it can improve a process. It sounds as if Ingalls is using it properly.

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