A patient “handoff,” or the “sign-out” process, is an episode during which the responsibility of a patient transitions from one health-care provider to another. These are important events that affect patient safety, particularly because a significant proportion of adverse events have been associated with a relative lack of physician communication. The objective of this investigation was to survey podiatric surgical residency programs with respect to patient care handoff and sign-out practices.
A survey was initially developed and subsequently administered to the chief residents of 40 Council on Podiatric Medical Education–approved podiatric surgical residency programs attempting to elucidate patient care handoff protocols and procedures and on-call practices.
Although it was most common for patient care handoffs to occur in person (60.0%), programs also reported that handoffs regularly occurred by telephone (52.5%) and with no direct personal communication whatsoever other than the electronic passing of information (50.0%). In fact, 27.5% of programs reported that their most common means of patient care handoff was without direct resident communication and was instead purely electronic. We observed that few residents reported receiving formal education or assessment/feedback (17.5%) regarding their handoff proficiency, and only 5.0% of programs reported that attending physicians regularly took part in the handoff/sign-out process. Although most programs felt that their sign-out practices were safe and effective, 67.5% also believed that their process could be improved.
These results provide unique information on a potentially underappreciated aspect of podiatric medical education and might point to some common deficiencies regarding the development of interprofessional communication within our profession during residency training.