How Do You Handoff A Patient?

Updated on March 9, 2022

When a patient is moved from one caregiver to another, this is referred to as “transitioning.” Caregivers frequently share information about their patients (the provider taking the patient).

Assuring the EMTs and the next nurse that the patient believes she can fly and will attempt to jump out of the helicopter, or assuring them that she has been taken off a certain drug and will not attempt to jump out of the helicopter again.

Handoff communication

Patient care, treatment, and services, as well as any recent or anticipated changes, should be discussed during the handoff dialogue. Read-back or other  Patient Handoff Tool of verifying incoming data are required.

Patient handoffs are becoming more common in today’s medicine. One of the least discussed and taught areas of normal patient care is the proper transmission of patient information from one member of the health care team to another. Medical mistakes are frequently caused by a breakdown in communication between doctors and patients. Clinicians at all levels of the system are at danger. Malpractice claim mistakes have been connected to communication issues, according to research.  Collaborative care necessitates strong clinician-to-clinician communication to guarantee patient safety and treatment continuity.

Individuals, communities, and organizations exchange information through communication. Communication must be exact, clear, brief, and timely in order to be effective. Additional hurdles to effective communication include time limits, hierarchy, and a range of communication styles.

The handover of a patient is an example of this. During a care transition, a clinician or team of clinicians performs a handoff, which involves passing patient data, competence, authority, and responsibility to another clinician or team. It should be simple to ask questions, get answers, and get confirmations. Joint Commission standards require two-way contact between the provider and the recipient of patient information during the handover period. It’s long past time to think about standardizing how people interact with one another.

Proper executed handoff

Based on how well handoffs are completed, people are allowed to ask and answer questions. The process of passing the hat from one on-call doctor to another, or from the office doctor to the hospital worker, or the other way around, is referred to as “hand-over.” This sort of disagreement can also arise between a resident or a nurse and the attending physician. This is also possible. Both parties must be able to express and grasp the patient’s situation in order for the transfer to be successful. It is vital that each doctor understands their role in the patient’s care during the handoff. If the information is known, email might be a good technique for sharing it. Unanswered SMS and voicemails are not transferable.

It is possible to enhance patient handoffs and clinician communication. When making judgments, consider the physical environment, the language used, the business culture, the way people communicate, and the way records are stored.

Manage the physical environment

It’s likely that the aesthetics will make communicating ideas more difficult. A boisterous nursing station is better than a quiet conference room for various reasons. When people don’t talk about other things, it’s simpler to delegate. The patient’s level of clinical acuity should be considered while determining the conditions, location, and content of the handoff communication. Patient handoffs should be considered in the patient’s room whenever possible.

Patient discretion and privacy

Only individuals directly involved in a patient’s treatment, such as her doctor, should have access to protected health information. When transferring patient data, privacy issues must also be taken into account. Compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is essential for doctors (HIPAA).

Language uses

A lack of communication owing to a lack of common language may make accurate information difficult to obtain. To minimize misconceptions caused by the usage of colloquialisms, standard medical language should be utilized. Avoid employing acronyms that are unfamiliar or unfamiliar. These organizations have agreed on this nomenclature. It has previously been used by the National Institutes of Health, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Maternal–Fetal Medicine. The American College of Nurse-Midwives and the Association of Women’s Health and Obstetrical Nurses both use language like this. Cultural, professional, and gender differences should all be considered while communicating.

Organizational standards and culture

There should be a single person or group of persons in charge of each patient’s entire care. A backup plan should be in place in the event that the primary contact cannot be reached.

A hierarchical structure, particularly in educational settings, may obstruct the flow of vital patient information. A senior attending physician should feel comfortable speaking with a first-year resident or nurse, as well as a resident their own age. Everyone on the healthcare team should have access to and be encouraged to use the information exchange. Senior physicians should also show how to pay attention to and question their workers’ problems.

The written component of the handoff

The handover might either be written by hand or displayed on a computer monitor. Because electronic medical records are secured, reading them is challenging. People in the medical field make mistakes because they write in a difficult-to-understand way. Every patient care transfer, whether verbal or written, should include a few critical items for which there is no established criteria. Vital demographics, a brief history and physical exam findings, a list of current problems and medications, pending test results, ongoing or planned therapy, major values and preferences, and any other relevant information should be included in medical records. Using SBRAR to assist with paperwork might be beneficial (Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation). In some cases, code status, mental health struggles, family concerns, and long-term care issues may be taken into account.


Patients will demand a safe environment in the future healthcare system. Overall, patients will receive better care if doctors and other members of the health care team collaborate to increase communication and information exchange. We are actively examining the most efficient methods of communicating with and educating patients. Physicians should seek to improve their communication skills on an individual and team level. Handoffs are critical for preventing errors that might harm patients and ensuring their safety.

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