The AMA is calling on all Australian hospitals to put in place systems to assist doctors with their clinical handover programs.
Clinical handover is the transfer of responsibility for patient care from one doctor, or medical team, to another.
A survey published in the latest Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) shows that, despite strong support from doctors, the uptake of clinical handover procedures is still disturbingly low in many hospitals.
AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, said today that in cases where hospitals have listened to clinicians and put in place an environment to support structured clinical handover, patients are receiving improved seamless care.
"There is a need for systems and programs to encourage clinical handover practices that assist doctors in all hospitals. Often it is the work pressure in the hospitals and on the doctors that makes proper handover more difficult.
"Proper clinical handover should be seen as an essential investment in maintaining quality care."
Dr Capolingua said hospital management should work with doctors and other staff to develop better handover practices, which could include:
· rostering staff on overlapping shifts so that they have time for handover
· ensuring that proper information and IT systems are in place
· providing properly equipped work spaces for handover
· and making sure that doctors are not called away during handover, except in an emergency
"Clinical handover is a basic and mandatory part of the accreditation for hospitals involved in the basic physician training program, yet the survey shows that almost half of the hospitals surveyed are simply not giving clinicians the required level of institutional support," Dr Capolingua said.
In January this year, the AMA launched its Safe Handover: Safe Patients booklet to guide hospitals and doctors on implementing improved clinical handover processes - the first guide of its type published in Australia.