Increased Mortality Rates during Resident Handoff Periods and the Effect of ACGME Duty Hour Regulations

Joshua L. Denson, Matthew McCarty, Yixin Fang, Amit Uppal, Laura Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Background Medical errors occur following handoff-related miscommunication. Data regarding the effect on patient-centered outcomes, specifically mortality, are lacking. Our objective was to investigate handoff-related mortality and the effect of duty-hour regulations. Methods Retrospective cohort study of adult medical patients at a public, university-affiliated hospital from 2010 to 2012. Patients were divided into 2 cohorts: handoff group (discharged within 7 days following a change in resident physician team) vs control group (discharged the 3 weeks of each 4-week rotation before resident service change). The primary outcome was unadjusted and adjusted hospital mortality rate. As a secondary prespecified analysis, we examined the effect of 2011 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) duty-hour changes. Results Among 23,736 patients, unadjusted hospital mortality during the handoff group was higher than the control group (2.68% vs 2.08%, respectively; P =.007; odds ratio [OR] 1.30; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08-1.57). Following adjustment, this association remained statistically significant (adjusted OR 1.34; P =.003; 95% CI, 1.10-1.62). Similarly, pre-duty-hour unadjusted hospital mortality was higher in the handoff group vs control group (2.87% vs 2.01%, respectively; P =.006; OR 1.44; 95% CI, 1.11-1.86), which remained statistically significant following adjustment (adjusted OR 1.50; P =.002; 95% CI, 1.16-1.95). However, this association lost statistical significance following duty-hour revision with respect to both unadjusted (2.48% vs 2.15%, respectively; P =.30; OR 1.16; 95% CI, 0.88-1.53) and adjusted mortality (OR 1.18; P =.26; 95% CI, 0.89-1.56). Conclusions Resident transition in care was significantly associated with an increase in unadjusted and adjusted hospital mortality. Although improved by 2011 ACGME duty-hour amendments, a trend toward higher mortality remained following resident handoff.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)994-1000
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


  • Duty hours
  • Handoff
  • Handover
  • Mortality
  • Resident duty-hour reform
  • Transitions of care


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