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Using a Computerized Sign-Out System to Improve Physician–Nurse Communication

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Background: Communication problems among health care workers are a common, preventable source of hospital-related morbidity and mortality. Internal medicine residents at Jacobi Medical Center (Bronx, NY) began using an electronic sign-out program that had been incorporated into the computerized medical record. This new system had been developed to improve the quality of information transfer between cross-covering residents. Eighteen months later, a pilot study was initiated to explore the potential benefits of offering inpatient nurses access to this sign-out data.

Methods: Nursing staff members were provided electronic access to the residents' sign-out information. Nurses received printouts of the computerized sign-outs at the start of each shift and were asked to use the sign-out program as a basis for their care plans and nursing change-of-shift "report."

Results: The 19 (of 20) nurses who completed the survey agreed that using the resident sign-out program positively affected their ability to care for their patients. In addition, the intervention improved nurses' understanding of the patients' reason for admission, helped to improve communication between physicians and nurses, and raised nursing morale.

Discussion: Incorporation of a housestaff electronic sign-out system into nursing daily workflow demonstrated multiple benefits and facilitated the transfer of valuable patient information from housestaff to nurses.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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