Many medical errors that occur in hospitals every year occur during patient handoffs. According to a new study, many medical errors that occur in American hospitals every year can be reduced by improving communication to enhance existing patient handoff procedures.

The study was published recently in The Journal of the American Medical Association and finds very often, lack of communication during these handoff procedures are responsible for potentially serious medical errors. The study finds that miscommunication between providers and staff members leads to medical errors, and often, these errors can be serious enough to compromise patient safety. The research team which consisted of doctors at Boston Children's Hospital designed a special and innovative handoff system to reduce the risk of errors during shift changes. This handoff system included better standardized communication and handoff training for staff members, a verbal mnemonic, and a brand-new handoff structure.

The researchers found that very often, doctors are not properly trained in the right kind of communication or handoff training, although this is a high-risk time for medical errors to occur. The new system included an interactive workshop for clinicians, in which doctors were given training on receiving and giving handoffs in a number of scenarios. Doctors were also made to learn a mnemonic to make sure that all relevant information was verbally communicated during the handoff. The participants were also made to participate in structured face-to-face handoffs, to reduce interruptions and distractions that increased the risk of miscommunication during handoffs.

Using this new and enhanced system, the researchers found they were able to reduce the number of omissions that occurred during patient handoffs and this also led to a decline in the number of medical errors by 45.8%.