Patient Handoffs: Standardized and Reliable Measurement Tools Remain Elusive
Abstract:Background: Numerous quality improvement projects on patient handoffs have been conducted, yet standardized, reliable measurement tools remain elusive.
Handoff Quality Measures Classified by Primary Handoff Purpose: The literature review, which yielded approximately 400 relevant articles, led to the identification of seven primary functions for patient handoffs, each of which implies different interventions to improve them: (1) Framing 1, information processing is the most prevalent in the patient handoff literature; (2) Framing 2, stereotypical narratives, emphasizes highlighting deviations from typical narratives, such as a patient who is allergic to the preferred antibiotic for treating his or her diagnosed condition; (3) Framing 3, resilience, takes advantage of the transparency of the thought processes revealed through the conversation to identify erroneous assumptions and actions; (4) Framing 4, accountability, emphasizes the transfer of responsibility and authority; (5) Framing 5, social interaction, considers the perspective of the participants in the exchange; (6) Framing 6, distributed cognition, addresses how a transfer to a new care provider affects a network of specialized practitioners performing dedicated roles who may or may not be transitioning at the same time; (7) Framing 7, cultural norms, relates to how group values (instantiated as social norms for acceptable behavior) in an organization or suborganization are negotiated and maintained over time.
Discussion: The diversity of handoff measurement approaches suggests a lack of consensus about the primary purpose of a handoff, as well as about what interventions are most promising for improving handoff processes. Recognizing that there are simultaneously multiple purposes for handoffs is a critical precursor to quality improvement.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: February 1, 2010
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- Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.
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