But with current work hour limits, how can physicians make the handoff process both smooth and smart so that patient care isn’t compromised? It’s important to know. According to research published in 2009, 26 to 31 percent of malpractice suits pointed to errors that occurred during the handoff process (Acad Med. 2009;84:1775-1787).
How the System Works and Why There Are Problems
Each otolaryngology program, like programs in other medical specialties, typically has its own method through which its residents learn the handoff process. Currently, universal protocols aren’t in place due to the variables among institutions, said Mark A. Zacharek, MD, a clinical associate professor and associate program director at the University of Michigan Health System’s department of otorhinolaryngology, and director of the Michigan Sinus Center in Ann Arbor.
“Some day we may have a nationally accepted standard by which the patient handoff occurs,” said Dr. Zacharek. “This may be difficult because programs vary in size, geography, size of hospitals and whether a Veteran’s Administration Hospital or Community Hospital systems are part of an otolaryngology training program.”