Background: Computerized physician handoff tools (CHTs) are designed to allow distributed access and synchronous archiving of patient information via Internet protocols. However, their impact on the quality of physician handoff, patient care, and physician work efficiency have not been extensively analyzed.
Methods: We searched MEDLINE, PUBMED, EMBASE, CINAHL, the Cochrane database for systematic reviews, and the Cochrane central register for clinical trials, from January 1960 to December 2011. We selected all articles that reported randomized controlled trials, controlled clinical trials, controlled before-after studies, and quasi-experimental studies of the use of CHTs for physician handoff for hospitalized patients. Relevant studies were evaluated independently for their eligibility for inclusion by 2 individuals in a 2-stage process.
Results: The literature search identified 1026 citations of which 6 satisfied the inclusion criteria. One study was a randomized controlled trial, whereas 5 were controlled before-after studies. Two studies showed that using CHTs reduced adverse events and missing patients. Three studies demonstrated improved overall quality of handoff after CHT implementation. One study suggested that CHTs could potentially enhance work efficiency and continuity of care during physician handoff. Conflicting impacts on consistency of handoff were found in 2 studies.
Conclusions: The evidence that CHTs improve physician handoff and quality of hospitalized patient care is limited. CHT may improve the efficiency of physician work, reduce adverse events, and increase the completeness of physician handoffs. However, further evaluation using rigorous study designs is needed.
Copyright © 2012 Society of Hospital Medicine.