3 factors affecting patient handoff communication

A study published in Journal of General Internal Medicine examined complex interactions and communication norms that shape face-to-face patient handoffs.

Researchers interviewed 35 residents in medicine and surgery wards at three VA medical centers.

They found that the effectiveness of handoff communication depends upon three factors:

• Receiver characteristics
• Type of shift
• Patient's condition and perceived acuity

The receiver characteristics that affected content shared during handoffs include subjective perceptions about an incoming resident's training or ability levels as well as the incoming resident's assumed preferences for information. Additionally, researchers found residents handing off to the night team offered more information about medical histories and care plans than residents handing off to the day team.

Finally, residents shared more detailed information when they perceived higher patient acuity.

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