A multidisciplinary initiative to standardize intensive care to acute care transitions

Stephanie Halvorson, Brian Wheeler, Marge Willis, Jennifer Watters, Jamie Eastman, Randy O'Donnell, Matthias Merkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Quality issue: Transfers from intensive care units to acute care units represent a complex care transition for hospitalized patients. Within our institution, variation in transfer practices resulted in unpredictable processes in which patient safety concerns were raised. Initial assessment: Key stakeholders were engaged across the institution. Patient safety ('incident') reports and a staff survey identified safety concerns. Choice of a solution: Using lean methodology, current transfer processes were mapped for the four adult intensive care units and waste was identified. During a summit of key stakeholders an ideal transfer process was conceived and a structured handoff tool (checklist) was developed. A daily management system (DMS) was implemented to monitor adherence. Evaluation: The primary process outcome was adherence to the standardized workflow. Audits at 4, 8, and 12 months after implementation indicated that the checklist was used for 100% of transfers. Secondary outcomes included the percentage of transfers completed within a pre-specified time window of 120 minutes, provider notification of patient arrival on the acute care unit, and staff survey responses assessing adequacy of transfer communication. Lessons learned: Prior work has shown that structuring handoffs can improve patient safety, but the novelty of this project was addressing the transfer process in its entirety, across silos of care. Factors leading to the success of this project were the involvement of key stakeholders across the entire institution early in the project development phase, employment of lean methodology, and implementation of tools to guide workflow adherence and track causes of deviation from the workflow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-625
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal for Quality in Health Care
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2016


  • Checklist
  • Lean management
  • Process mapping
  • Quality improvement
  • Safety culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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