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

Crit Care. 2012 Feb 8;16(1):303. doi: 10.1186/cc10536.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / standards*
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety / standards
  • Patient Transfer / methods
  • Patient Transfer / standards*