Background: The I-PASS framework is increasingly being adopted for patient handoffs after a recent study reported a decrease in medical errors and preventable adverse events. A key component of the I-PASS handoff included assignment of illness severity. Objective: We evaluated whether illness severity categories can identify patients at higher risk of overnight clinical deterioration as defined by activation of the rapid response team (RRT). Methods: The I-PASS handoff documentation created by internal medicine residents and patient charts with overnight RRT activations from April 2016 through March 2017 were reviewed retrospectively. The RRT activations, illness severity categories, vital signs prior to resident handoff, and patient outcomes were evaluated. Results: Of the 28 235 written patient handoffs reviewed, 1.3% were categorized as star (sickest patients at risk for higher level of care), 18.8% as watcher (unsure of illness trajectory), and 79.9% as stable (improving clinical status). Of the 98 RRT activations meeting the inclusion criteria, 5.1% were labeled as star, 35.7% as watcher, and 59.2% as stable. Patients listed as watcher had an odds ratio of 2.6 (95% confidence interval 1.7-3.9), and patients listed as star had an odds ratio of 5.2 (95% confidence interval 2.1-13.1) of an overnight RRT activation compared with patients listed as stable. The overall in-hospital mortality of patients with an overnight RRT was 29.6%. Conclusions: The illness severity component of the I-PASS handoff can identify patients at higher risk of overnight clinical deterioration and has the potential to help the overnight residents prioritize patient care.
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