A multi-center prospective cohort study of patient transfers from the intensive care unit to the hospital ward
To provide a 360-degree description of ICU-to-ward transfers.
Prospective cohort study of 451 adults transferred from a medical–surgical ICU to a hospital ward in 10 Canadian hospitals July 2014–January 2016. Transfer processes documented in the medical record. Patient (or delegate) and provider (ICU/ward physician/nurse) perspectives solicited by survey 24–72 h after transfer.
Medical records (100%) and survey responses (ICU physicians–80%, ICU nurses–80%, ward physicians–46%, ward nurses–64%, patients–74%) were available for most transfers. The median time from initiation to completion of transfer was 25 h (IQR 6–52). ICU physicians and nurses reported communicating with counterparts via telephone (78 and 75%) when transfer was requested (82 and 24%) or accepted (31 and 59%) and providing more elements of clinical information than ward physicians (mean 4.7 vs. 3.9, p < 0.001) and nurses (5.0 vs. 4.4, p < 0.001) reported receiving. Patients were more likely to report satisfaction with the transfer when they received more information (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.18–1.48), had their questions addressed (OR 3.96, 95% CI 1.33–11.84), met the ward physician prior to transfer (OR 4.61, 95% CI 2.90–7.33), and were assessed by a nurse within 1 h of ward arrival (OR 4.70, 95% CI 2.29–9.66). Recommendations for improvement included having a documented care plan travel with the patient (all stakeholders), standardized face-to-face handover (physicians), avoiding transfers at shift change (nurses) and informing patients about pending transfers in advance (patients).
ICU-to-ward transfers are characterized by failures of patient flow and communication; experienced differently by patients, ICU/ward physicians and nurses, with distinct suggestions for improvement.
KeywordsCritical care Patient handoff Continuity of patient care Patient transfer Communication
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