Implementing electronic handover: interventions to improve efficiency, safety and sustainability

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Abstract

Problem

Effective handovers are critical for patient care and safety. Electronic handover tools are increasingly used today to provide an effective and standardized platform for information exchange. The implementation of an electronic handover system in tertiary hospitals can be a major challenge. Previous efforts in implementing an electronic handover tool failed due to poor compliance and buy-in from end-users. A new electronic handover tool was developed and incorporated into the existing electronic medical records (EMRs) for medical patients in Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

Initial assessment

There was poor compliance by on-call doctors in acknowledging electronic handovers, and lack of adherence to safety rules, raising concerns about the safety and efficiency of the electronic handover tool. Urgent measures were needed to ensure its safe and sustained use.

Solution

A quality improvement group comprising stakeholders, including end-users, developed multi-faceted interventions using rapid PDSA (P-Plan, D-Do, S-Study, A-Act ) cycles to address these issues.

Implementation

Innovative solutions using media and online software provided cost-efficient measures to improve compliance.

Evaluation

The percentage of unacknowledged handovers per day was used as the main outcome measure throughout all PDSA cycles. Doctors were also assessed for improvement in their knowledge of safety rules and their perception of the electronic handover tool.

Lessons learnt

An electronic handover tool complementing daily clinical practice can be successfully implemented using solutions devised through close collaboration with end-users supported by the senior leadership. A combined ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ approach with regular process evaluations is crucial for its long-term sustainability.

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