ATS Sch. 2020 Jul 16;1(3):288-300. doi: 10.34197/ats-scholar.2019-0023OC.
Background: In-hospital transfers such as from the intensive care unit (ICU) to the general internal medicine (GIM) ward place patients at risk of adverse events. A structured handover tool may improve transitions from the ICU to the GIM ward. Objective: To develop, implement, and evaluate a customized user-designed transfer tool to improve transitions from the ICU to the GIM ward. Methods: This was a pre-post intervention study at a tertiary academic hospital. We developed and implemented a user-designed, structured, handwritten ICU-to-GIM transfer tool. The tool included active medical issues, functional status, medications and medication changes, consulting services, code status, and emergency contact information. Transfer tool users included GIM physicians, ICU physicians, and critical care rapid response team nurses. An implementation audit and mixed qualitative and quantitative analysis of pre-post survey responses was used to evaluate clinician satisfaction and the perceived quality of patient transfers. Results: The pre-post survey response rate was 51.8% (99/191). Respondents included GIM residents (58.5%), ICU rapid response team physicians and nurses (24.2%), and GIM attending physicians (17.2%). Less than half of clinicians (48.8%) reported that the preintervention transfer process was adequate. Clinicians who used the transfer tool reported that the transfer process was improved (93.3% vs. 48.8%, P = 0.03). Clinician-reported understanding of medication changes in the ICU increased (69.2% vs. 29.1%, P = 0.004), as did their ability to plan for a safe hospital discharge (69.2% vs. 31.0%, P = 0.01). However, only 64.2% of audited transfers used the tool. Frequently omitted sections included home medications (missing in 83.4% of audits), new medications (33.3%), and secondary diagnosis (33.3%). Thematic analysis of free-text responses identified areas for improvement including clarifying the course of ICU events and enhancing tool usability. Conclusion: A user-designed, structured, handwritten transfer tool may improve the perceived quality of patient transfers from the ICU to the GIM wards.