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Transfer of care

26 May 2012
A little yellow envelope has made a big difference to improving patient safety at Northland DHB.

The introduction of the envelope with a checklist of vital patient information printed on it has helped minimise errors and delays during transfer of care from age-related residential care facilities to hospital and back.

What started as a trial with home-made envelopes at three aged care facilities in 2010 has now spread to all 23 facilities across Northland DHB’s population area, funded by the DHB.

As a result, care facilities have clarity about exactly what information needs to be included in the envelope to help hospital staff provide the right care for the patient without delay.

The same operates in reverse when the patient leaves inpatient care.

“This streamlines the information process and reduces hassles during the transfer of care,” said Northland DHB’s Sally Gregory-Hunt.

“By following the requirements printed on the envelope, care facilities ensure that the patient’s details and requirements are very clear to staff when they arrive in the hospital.”

Until the envelope checklist system was introduced, there were occasions when paperwork was misplaced in ambulances and of patients arriving at hospital with an abundance of paperwork – but not the information hospital staff needed.

This was a particular obstacle to safe and timely care in the case of patients with communication issues, such as those with dementia and older people.

The envelope checklist includes basic information such as a patient’s ability to mobilise to reduce the risk of falls, what type of medication they require or must avoid and their suitability for solid foods.

“Information coming in from aged care was being misplaced and also, on discharge back to aged care facilities, there was inconsistency from wards,” said Northland DHB’s Cathryn Henty.

“Now there is consistency of information on the way in and out.

“This has been very successful. Ambulance staff know what to look for and there has been good feedback from care facilities and wards.

“Care facilities also need less contact with the emergency department and hospital staff, so there has been a time-saving for everyone.”