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1.  Ethical problems in intensive care unit admission and discharge decisions: a qualitative study among physicians and nurses in the Netherlands 
BMC Medical Ethics  2015;16:9.
Background
There have been few empirical studies into what non-medical factors influence physicians and nurses when deciding about admission and discharge of ICU patients. Information about the attitudes of healthcare professionals about this process can be used to improve decision-making about resource allocation in intensive care. To provide insight into ethical problems that influence the ICU admission and discharge process, we aimed to identify and explore ethical dilemmas healthcare professionals are faced with.
Methods
This was an explorative, descriptive study using qualitative methods (individual and focus group interviews). We conducted 19 individual interviews and 4 focus group interviews with nurses and physicians working in the ICU or the general ward of 10 Dutch hospitals.
Results
The ethical problems in the context of ICU admission and discharge can be divided into problems concerning full bed occupancy and problems related to treatment decisions.
The gap between the high level of care the ICU can provide and the lower care level in the general ward sometimes leads to mutual misunderstandings. Our results indicate that when professionals of different wards feel there is a collective responsibility and effort to solve a problem, this helps to prevent or alleviate moral distress.
ICU patients’ wishes are often unknown, causing healthcare professionals to err on the side of more treatment. Additionally, the highly technological nature of intensive care appears to encourage over-treatment.
Conclusions
It is important for ICUs and general wards to communicate and cooperate well, since there is a mutual dependency for optimal patient flow between the different departments. Interventions that improve the understanding and cooperation between these wards may help mitigate ethical problems.
The nature of the ICU environment makes it important for healthcare professionals to be aware of the risk of over-treatment, reflect on why they do what they do, and be mindful of a possible negative impact of over-treatment on their patients. Early discussion of a patient’s wishes with regard to treatment options is important in preventing over-treatment.
doi:10.1186/s12910-015-0001-4
PMCID: PMC4344998  PMID: 25880418
Critical Care; Ethics; Intensive Care Units; Qualitative Research; Rationing; Resource Allocation
2.  Improving clinical handover between intensive care unit and general ward professionals at intensive care unit discharge 
Intensive Care Medicine  2015;41(4):589-604.
Purpose
To systematically review and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions in order to improve the safety and efficiency of patient handover between intensive care unit (ICU) and general ward healthcare professionals at ICU discharge.
Methods
PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library were searched for intervention studies with the aim to improve clinical handover between ICU and general ward healthcare professionals that had been published up to and including June 2013. The methods for article inclusion and data analysis were pre-specified and aligned with recommendations outlined in the PRISMA guideline. Two reviewers independently extracted data (study purpose, setting, population, method of sampling, sample size, intervention characteristics, outcome, and implementation activities) and assessed the quality of the included studies.
Results
From the 6,591 citations initially extracted from the six databases, we included 11 studies in this review. Of these, six (55 %) reported statistically significant effects. Effective interventions included liaison nurses to improve communication and coordination of care and forms to facilitate timely, complete and accurate handover information. Effective interventions resulted in improved continuity of care (e.g., reduced discharge delay) and in reduced adverse events. Inconsistent effects were observed for use of care, namely, reduction of length of stay versus increase of readmissions to higher care. No statistically significant effects were found in the reduction of mortality. The overall methodological quality of the 11 studies reviewed was relatively low, with an average score of 4.5 out of 11 points.
Conclusions
This review shows that liaison nurses and handover forms are promising interventions to improve the quality of patient handover between the ICU and general ward. More robust evidence is needed on the effectiveness of interventions aiming to improve ICU handover and supportive implementation strategies.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00134-015-3666-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00134-015-3666-8
PMCID: PMC4392116  PMID: 25672275
Clinical handover; Transitional care; Intensive care; Patient safety; Quality of care; Systematic review
3.  A strategy to enhance the safety and efficiency of handovers of ICU patients: study protocol of the pICUp study 
Background
To use intensive care unit (ICU) facilities efficiently and ensure high quality of care, an optimal patient flow is necessary. Discharging patients relieves the pressure on ICU beds but the risk of premature discharge must be managed carefully. Suboptimal patient discharge may result in ICU readmissions and in patients’ death.
The aim of this study is to obtain insight into the safety and efficiency of current ICU discharge practices and into barriers and facilitators to the implementation of effective ICU discharge interventions, and to develop an implementation strategy tailored to the barriers and facilitators identified.
Methods/design
This study exists of five phases. Phase A: analysis of routinely registered data on variation in ICU readmissions and hospital mortality after ICU discharge of all ICUs participating in the Dutch National Intensive Care Evaluation registry (n = 83). Phase B: systematic review of effective interventions aiming to improve the efficiency and safety of the ICU discharge process. Phase C: assessing the intervention adherence with a questionnaire survey among all Dutch ICUs (n = 90). Phase D: assessing barriers and facilitators to the implementation of effective ICU discharge interventions with a questionnaire survey among all Dutch intensivists (n = 700). The questionnaire will be based on barriers and facilitators identified by focus groups (n = 4) and individual interviews with professionals of ICUs and general wards and adult discharged ICU patients (n = 25 to 30). Phase E: systematic development of an implementation strategy based on the sampled data in phase A to D, and effective implementation strategies from the literature using the intervention mapping method.
Discussion
Using theory and empirical data, an implementation strategy will be developed to improve the safety and efficiency of the ICU discharge process. The developed strategy will be evaluated in a subsequent study. The knowledge obtained in this study should be used for further implementation of ICU discharge interventions, and can be used for implementation of handover interventions in other healthcare transition settings.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-67
PMCID: PMC3697992  PMID: 23767696
Intensive care; Critical care; Patient safety; Quality of healthcare; Patient handoff; Patient readmission; Hospital mortality; Guideline adherence; Implementation
4.  Medication reconciliation at hospital admission and discharge: insufficient knowledge, unclear task reallocation and lack of collaboration as major barriers to medication safety 
Background
Medication errors are a leading cause of patient harm. Many of these errors result from an incomplete overview of medication either at a patient’s referral to or at discharge from the hospital. One solution is medication reconciliation, a formal process in which health care professionals partner with patients to ensure an accurate and complete transfer of medication information at interfaces of care. In 2007, the Dutch government compelled hospitals to implement a bundle concerning medication reconciliation at hospital admission and discharge. But to date many hospitals have failed to implement this bundle fully. The aim of this study was to gain insight into the barriers and drivers of the implementation process.
Methods
We performed face to face, semi-structured interviews with twenty health care professionals and managers from several departments at a 953 bed university hospital in the Netherlands and also from the surrounding community health services. The interviews were analysed using a combined theoretical framework of Grol and Cabana to classify the drivers and barriers identified.
Results
There is lack of awareness and insufficient knowledge of health care professionals about the health care problem and the bundle medication reconciliation. These result in a lack of support for implementing the bundle. In addition clinicians are reluctant to reallocate tasks to nurses or pharmacy technicians. Another major barrier is a lack of communication, understanding and collaboration between hospital and community caregivers. The introduction of more competitive market forces has made matters worse. Major drivers are a good implementation plan, patient awareness, and obligation by the government.
Conclusions
We identified a wide range of barriers and drivers which health care professionals believe influence the implementation of medication reconciliation. This reflects the complexity of implementation. Implementation can be improved if these factors are adequately addressed. The feasibility and effectiveness of these strategies should be tested in controlled trails.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-170
PMCID: PMC3416693  PMID: 22721361
Adverse events; Safety; Quality; Medication reconciliation; Medication error; Implementation; Implementation barriers

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