Gaining efficiency and satisfaction in the handoff process

M. Caroline Burton, Deanne T. Kashiwagi, Lisa L. Kirkland, Dennis Manning, Prathibha Varkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Handoffs, or transfers of patient care responsibility, occur frequently on hospitalist teams. The reliability and efficiency of the handoff process is a national and local concern. Most studies in the literature regard physicians-in-training. We studied the morning handoff process of hospitalist teams comprised of staff physicians and nurse practitioner and/or physician assistants. METHODS:: An improvement team observed morning handoffs. Four problems were identified: unpredictable start and finish times, inefficiency, poor environment (hallway noise and distracting in-room conversations), and poor communication. The team restructured the process and observed post-intervention behavior at 15 and 90 days. A participant-provider survey was conducted before and after the intervention regarding wasted time, total time-in-report, and satisfaction with the process. RESULTS:: Pre-intervention 60.5% of providers (23/38) believed morning handoff was performed in a timely fashion compared to 100% (15/15) post-intervention (P = 0.005). Average time spent in morning report was 11 minutes, compared to 5 minutes after the intervention (P < 0.0028). Pre-intervention 6.5 minutes were believed wasteful, compared to 0.5 minutes post-intervention (P < 0.0001). CONCLUSIONS:: This study identifies deficiencies in the handoff process that were addressed by enhancing the physical environment (smaller room, noise reduction, closed door), assigned seating (visual cues by table tent cards), non-clinicians providing printed materials, standardization of written updates, team times (consistent & precise daily time for each team report), culture change including deference of attention to team receiving report with opportunity for questions, and minimization of side conversations. This intervention package resulted in an improvement in satisfaction and timeliness of clinicians involved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-552
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of hospital medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Handoff
  • Handover
  • Shift change
  • Signout

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Internal Medicine
  • Fundamentals and skills
  • Health Policy
  • Care Planning
  • Assessment and Diagnosis


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