An algorithm for transition of care in the emergency department

Chad Kessler, Faizan Shakeel, H. Gene Hern, Jonathan S. Jones, Jim Comes, Christine Kulstad, Fiona A. Gallahue, Boyd David Burns, Barry J. Knapp, Maureen Gang, Moira Davenport, Ben Osborne, Larissa I. Velez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives The objective of this study is to present an algorithm for improving the safety and effectiveness of transitions of care (ToC) in the emergency department (ED). Methods This project was undertaken by the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors (CORD) Transitions of Care Task Force and guided by the six-step Kern model for curriculum development. A targeted needs assessment in survey form was designed using a modified Delphi method among the CORD ToC Task Force. The survey was designed for four subgroups within the ED: emergency medicine (EM) residency program directors, EM academic chairpersons, EM residents, and EM nurses. Members from nationally recognized EM organizations assisted in the development of each respective survey, including the Academic Affairs Committee of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the leadership of the Emergency Medicine Residents' Association (EMRA), and the leadership of Emergency Nurses Association (ENA). The surveys contained questions about current handoff practices and asked participants to rate the importance of key logistical and informational parameters within a ToC. Survey validity was achieved through content validity, item analysis, format familiarity, and electronic scoring. The surveys of program directors and academic chairpersons were distributed through the CORD listserv, the resident survey was distributed via EMRA correspondents, and the nurse survey was distributed through the ENA listserv. Following survey collection, the ToC Task Force convened and used the data to assess handoff practices and deficiencies. The Task Force developed recommendations for a ToC algorithm that was then piloted by medical educators in their institutions. These educators shared their experiences with senior department members in a phone interview. This informant feedback was used to address deficiencies in the algorithm and finalize the recommendations from the CORD Task Force. Results The surveys for program directors (n = 147), academic chairpersons (n = 99), residents (n = 194), and nurses (n = 902) were electronically scored. Handoff education in the form of structured workshops or classes was typically not offered, with only 10.9% of residents and 9.0% of nurses reporting that they received such training. The majority (93.9%) of EM academic chairpersons stated that assessments of handoff proficiency were not conducted within their programs. Computerized handoff was the most popular assistive tool among all surveyed groups. Handoff parameters that were rated as "important" and "extremely important" included uninterrupted time and space to perform the handoff, identification of "high-risk" handoffs, and the opportunity for questions and clarification from the handoff recipient. The developed handoff algorithm consisted of five steps: 1) setting the stage, 2) assembling the team, 3) identification of high-risk patients, 4) shift sign-out, and 5) closing the loop. Conclusions The authors present specific guidelines for an algorithm-based approach to transitioning care within the ED. This algorithm is based on surveys of perceived deficiencies and emphasizes informational and logistical parameters within a ToC. Standardizing the process of the ToC may allow for future research on the link between effective ToC and patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-610
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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