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Strategies to Improve Handoffs


This tool provides an outline of recommended strategies to improve the handoff process in hospitals (i.e., patient transitions in care from one provider to another). It provides a description of each of the following strategies as well as resources to assist in developing an implementation plan:
  1. Consider different types of handoffs and places where they occur
  2. Standardize handoffs—reduce variation
  3. Map the handoff process
  4. Employ six principles of error-free handoffs
  5. Employ SBAR (Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation) or other communication checklists
  6. Manage change-of-shift communications
  7. Standardize the patient discharge process
  8. Provide clear medication instructions at discharge
  9. Use briefings or huddles
  10. Use forms, whiteboards, and checklists
  11. Use facsimile reports to transfer information to receiving units
  12. Use audio-taped handoffs
  13. Use information technology when available
  14. Document handoffs
  15. Update policies and procedures
  16. Measure the impact of handoffs on adverse events
  17. Measure key timeframes in the handoff process


Delmarva Foundation; Maryland Patient Safety Center

Funding Sources

Maryland Patient Safety Center; CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

QualityTool Topic



  • Release Date: 03/2007
  • Original Summary: 07/2008
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Last updated: August 04, 2008.