Implementing a Warm Handoff Between Hospital and Skilled Nursing Facility Clinicians

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Abstract

Objectives

Care transitions between hospitals and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are associated with disruptions in patient care and high risk for adverse events. Communication between hospital-based and SNF-based clinicians is often suboptimal; there have been calls to foster direct, real-time communication between sending and receiving clinicians to enhance patient safety. This article described the implementation of a warm handoff between hospital and SNF physicians and advanced practice providers at the time of hospital discharge.

Methods

Before patient transfer, hospital clinicians called SNF clinicians to provide information relevant to the continuation of safe patient care and offer SNF clinicians the opportunity to ask clarifying questions. The calls were documented in the hospital discharge summary.

Results

A total of 2417 patient discharges were eligible for inclusion. Warm handoffs were documented at an increasing rate throughout implementation of the intervention, beginning with 15.78% (n = 3) in stage 1, then 20.27% (n = 75) in stage 2, and finally 46.89% (n = 951) in stage 3. The overall average rate of documentation was 42.57%. Participant feedback indicated that clinicians were most concerned about understanding the purpose of the warm handoff, managing their workload, and improving the efficiency of the process.

Conclusions

Use of a warm handoff showed promise in improving communication during hospital-SNF patient transfers. However, the implementation also highlighted specific barriers to the handoff related to organizational structures and clinician workload. Addressing these underlying issues will be critical in ensuring continued participation and support for efforts that foster direct communication among clinicians from different healthcare institutions.

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