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A Handoff Protocol from the Cardiovascular Operating Room to Cardiac ICU Is Associated with Improvements in Care Beyond the Immediate Postoperative Period

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Background: Handoff protocols from the cardiovascular operating room (CVOR) to the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) can improve patient outcomes and delivery of care beyond the immediate postoperative period. In a prospective quality improvement study, a structured CVOR-to-CICU handoff protocol was implemented at a university-affiliated children's hospital. As a parallel project, an initiative to reduce unplanned extubations in the CICU was implemented.

Methods: In a 41-month period, 1,507 neonates, infants, children, and adults were admitted to the CICU from the CVOR after undergoing a surgical procedure. The study was divided into a 17-month prehandoff-protocol period (January 2009–May 2010) and a 24-month posthandoff-protocol period (June 2010–May 2012). The handoff protocol was intended to streamline the handoff process from the CVOR and throughout the transition to the CICU. The specifics of the handoff, as outlined in a bedside laminated flowchart, included patient transport from the CVOR, the cardiovascular surgeon's report, the anesthesiologist's report, and the patient status summary and care plan.

Results: After introduction of the handoff protocol, there was a statistically significant and sustained reduction in the mean rate of unplanned extubations from 0.62 to 0.24 per 100 ventilator-days (p = .03). There was a statistically significant reduction in median ventilator time per patient—from 17 hours (interquartile range [IQR]: 5.3 to 57.7) to 12.8 hours (IQR: 4.8 to 31.8); p = .02). The mean rate of unplanned extubations was 0.26 in 2011 and 0.30 in 2012.

Conclusions: Implementation of a handoff protocol from the CVOR to the CICU was associated with sustained decrease in unplanned extubations and in mean ventilator times.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2013

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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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