Despite of the increasing knowledge about patient safety improvements in the handover process in hospitals, we still lack knowledge about what magnitude of patient safety gains can be expected from improvements in handover between the intensive care unit (ICU) and the general ward. The aim of this systematic review was to investigate which handover tools are devised and evaluated with the aim of improving patient safety in the handover process from ICU to ward and whether the described handover tools fulfill their purpose.
A systematic literature search of 6 databases was performed to answer the review question, developed by using the “Patient Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome” format. Two authors independently performed the selection process, as well as the data extraction and quality assessment. The recommendations of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Statement were followed.
Eight studies were finally included in the qualitative analysis. One study investigated a written information tool, 1 study investigated improved verbal information, 1 study investigated the effect of an additional safety check, and 5 studies investigated a Liaison Nurse as handover tool. Because of heterogeneity among the included studies, the study results could not be pooled.
Not many well-conducted studies can shed light on this important topic. Giving patients and their families a supplementary written or verbal status report before transfer might improve patient safety. The introduction of a Liaison Nurse may be effective in improving communication between ICU and ward staff, which might reduce risks in patient safety. However, there is no evidence of improved mortality and/or readmission rates after introducing handover tools in the transfer from ICU to ward.