Quantitative Analysis of the Content of EMS Handoff of Critically Ill and Injured Patients to the Emergency Department

Scott A. Goldberg, Avital Porat, Christopher G. Strother, Nadine Q. Lim, H. R.Sagara Wijeratne, Greisy Sanchez, Kevin G. Munjal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objectives: Patient handoff occurs when responsibility for patient diagnosis, treatment, or ongoing care is transferred from one healthcare professional to another. Patient handoff is an integral component of quality patient care and is increasingly identified as a potential source of medical error. However, evaluation of handoff from field providers to ED personnel is limited. We here present a quantitative analysis of the information transferred from EMS providers to ED physicians during handoff of critically ill and injured patients. Methods: This study was conducted at an urban academic medical center with an emergency department census of greater than 100,000 visits annually. All patients arriving to our institution by EMS and meeting predefined triage criteria are brought immediately to the ED resuscitation area upon EMS arrival. Handoff from EMS to ED providers occurring in the resuscitation area was observed and audio recorded by trained research assistants and subsequently coded for content. The emergency department team as well as EMS were blinded to study design. Results: Ninety patient handoffs were evaluated. In 78% (95%CI = 70.0–86.7) of all handoffs, EMS provided a chief concern. In 58% (95%CI = 47.7–67.7) of handoffs EMS provided a description of the scene and in 57% (95%CI = 46.7–66.7) they provided a complete set of vital signs. In 47% (95%CI = 31.3–57.5) of handoffs pertinent physical exam findings were described. The EMS provider gave an overall assessment of the patient's clinical status in 31% (95%CI = 21.6–40.3) of cases. Significantly more paramedic handoffs included vital signs (70% vs. 37%, χ2 = 9.69, p = 0.002) and physical exam findings (63% vs. 23%, χ2 = 14.11, p < 0.001). Paramedics were more likely to provide an overall assessment (39% vs. 17%, χ2 = 4.71, p < 0.05). Conclusions: While patient handoff is a critical component of safe and effective patient care, our study confirms previous literature demonstrating poor quality handoff from EMS to ED providers in critically ill and injured patients. Our analysis demonstrates the need for further training in the provision of patient handoff.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-17
Number of pages4
JournalPrehospital Emergency Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • allied health personnel
  • emergency medical services
  • patient handoff
  • patient safety


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