An experimental comparison of handover methods

Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2007 Apr;89(3):298-300. doi: 10.1308/003588407X168352.


Introduction: With the increase in shift pattern work for junior doctors in the NHS, accurate handover of patient clinical information is of great importance. There is no published method that forms the gold standard of handover and there are large variations in practice. This study aims to compare the reliability of three different handover methods.

Patients and methods: We observed the handover of 12 simulated patients over five consecutive handover cycles between SHOs on a one-to-one basis. Three handover styles were used and a numerical scoring system assessed clinical information lost per handover cycle.

Results: After five handover cycles, only 2.5% of patient information was retained using the verbal-only handover method, 85.5% was retained when using the using the verbal with note taking method and 99% was retained when a printed handout containing all patient information was used.

Conclusions: When patient information is handed over by the verbal only method, very few facts are retained; therefore, this method should be avoided whenever possible. Verbal handover with note taking is shown to be an effective method of handover in our study, although we accept that this is an artificial scenario and may not reflect the reality of a busy hospital. Nearly all information is retained by the printed handout method but this relies on the handout being regularly updated.

MeSH terms

  • Continuity of Patient Care / standards*
  • Data Collection
  • England
  • Humans
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / standards*
  • Patient Transfer / methods
  • Patient Transfer / standards*
  • Professional Practice / standards*