A Standard Handoff Improves Cardiac Surgical Patient Transfer: Operating Room to Intensive Care Unit

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Patient handoffs are high-risk times associated with sentinel events. Effective handoff processes may enhance patient safety and team member communication. This study assesses the impact of a standardized protocol for handoffs from the cardiac surgery operating room to intensive care unit (ICU).


Using a prospective pre–post study design, a formalized handoff process was developed including critical handoff elements and a standardized handoff procedure, script, and checklist. Data were collected from 60 handoff observations (30 pre and 30 post), evaluating 52 unique parameters, and survey of providers on perspectives of the handoff process. Results were compared by chi-square test, two sample t-test, or nonparametric Mann–Whitney test. Statistical significance was defined as P ≤ .05.


Provider's perspectives showed improved satisfaction with the standardized handoff process through improved responses in 19 of 22 survey items (P < .001). Median time until ventilator connection, ICU monitor transfer, first cardiac index, and chest radiograph were reduced after implementation. Completion of handoff process components also improved after implementation for 36 of 47 nontime parameters.


A standard checklist-driven handoff process can dramatically improve key data transmission and reduce time of critical patient care steps during the high-risk period of patient handoff in a cardiac surgical ICU.

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