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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

Dropping the baton during the handoff from emergency department to primary care: pediatric asthma continuity errors.

Hsiao AL, Shiffman RN. Joint Commission journal on quality and patient safety. 2009;35:467-74.

Discontinuity between providers is a well-documented source of errors, as prior research has documented safety problems arising from handoffs and signouts in the hospital and at the time of hospital discharge. The need for accurate information transfer between providers is no less important for patients seen in the emergency department (ED), but this study found that most pediatricians were unaware that their asthma patients had required an ED visit. This occurred despite the existence of a structured system for communication between the ED and primary care physicians. Many patients also failed to follow up in clinic as instructed, perhaps corroborating prior research showing that many ED patients do not fully comprehend discharge instructions. This study adds another facet to the problem of patient safety in chronic disease management.