Citation Fitzpatrick D, McKenna M, Duncan EAS, Laird C, Lyon R & Corfield A (2018) Critcomms: a national cross-sectional questionnaire based study to investigate prehospital handover practices between ambulance clinicians and specialist prehospital teams in Scotland. Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine, 26 (1), Art. No.: 45. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13049-018-0512-3
Poor communication during patient handover is recognised internationally as a root cause of a significant proportion of preventable deaths. Improving the accuracy and quality of handover may reduce associated mortality and morbidity. Although the practice of handover between Ambulance and Emergency Department clinicians has received some attention over recent years there is little evidence to support handover best practice within the prehospital domain. Further research is therefore urgently required to understand the most appropriate way to deliver clinical information exchange in the pre-hospital environment. We aimed to investigate current clinical information exchange practices, perceived challenges and the preferred handover mnemonic for use during transfer of high acuity patients between ambulance clinicians and specialist prehospital teams.
A national, cross-sectional questionnaire study. Participants were road based ambulance clinicians (RBAC) or active members of specialist prehospital teams (SPHT) based in Scotland.
Over a three month study period there were 247 prehospital incidents involving specialist teams. One hundred ninety individuals completed the questionnaire; 61% [n = 116] RBAC and 39% [n = 74] SPHT. Median length of prehospital experience was 10 years (IQR 5–18). Overall current prehospital handover practices were perceived as being effective (Mdn 4.00; IQR 3–4 [1 = very ineffective - 5 = very effective]) although SPHT clinicians rated handover effectiveness slightly lower than RBAC’s (Mdn 3.00 vs 4.00, U = 1842.5, p = .03). ‘ATMIST’ (Age, Time of onset, Medical complaint/injury, Investigation, Signs and Treatment) was deemed the mnemonic of choice. The clinical variables perceived as essential for handover are not explicitly identified within the SBAR mnemonic. The most frequently reported method of recording and transferring information during handover was via memory (n = 112 and n = 120 respectively) and ‘interruptions’ were perceived as the most significant barrier to effective handover.
While, overall, current prehospital handover practice is perceived as effective this study has identified a number of areas for improvement. These include the development of a shared mental model through system standardisation, innovations to support information recording and delivery, and the clear identification at incidents of a handover lead. Mnemonics must be carefully selected to ensure they explicitly contain the perceived essential clinical variables required for prehospital handover; the mnemonic ATMIST meets these requirements. New theoretically informed, evidence-based interventions, must be developed and tested within existing systems of care to minimise information loss and risk to patients.