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Improved patient ‘hand-off’ at hospital shift changes reduces errors

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It happens two or three times a day in hospitals: Doctors hand off their patients to the next shift, sometimes standing in the hallway with their pagers ringing and the frenzy of the hospital swirling around them. Important information about a patient’s condition and treatment needs can get lost in the shuffle, a known cause of medical errors.

On Tuesday, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital provided some of the first good evidence that a more structured patient handoff improves care. After introducing a new system on two inpatient units at the hospital, the group found that preventable errors declined by more than half over three months. Their results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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