, 16:303
Date: 08 Feb 2012

A handoff is not a telegram: an understanding of the patient is co-constructed

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Abstract

Hospital handoffs are believed to be a key locus of communication breakdown that can endanger patient safety and undermine quality of care. Substantial new efforts to better understand handoffs and to improve handoff practices are under way. Many such efforts appear to be seriously hampered, however, by an underlying presumption that the essential function of a handoff is one-way information transmission. Here, we examine social science literature that supports a richer framing of handoff conversations, one that characterizes them as co-constructions of an understanding of the patient.