The Patient Handoff: A Comprehensive Curricular Blueprint for Resident Education to Improve Continuity of Care

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Abstract

In 2010, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education released its resident duty hours restrictions, requiring that faculty monitor their residents' patient handoffs to ensure that residents are competent in handoff communications. Although studies have reported the need to improve the effectiveness of the handoff and a variety of curricula have been suggested and implemented, a common method for teaching and evaluating handoff skills has not been developed. Also in 2010, engineers, informaticians, and physicians interested in patient handoffs attended a symposium in Savannah, Georgia, hosted by the Association for Computing Machinery, entitled Handovers and Handoffs: Collaborating in Turns. As a result of this symposium, a workgroup formed to develop practical and readily implementable educational materials for medical educators involved in teaching patient handoffs to residents. In this article, the result of that yearlong collaboration, the authors aim to provide clarity on the definition of the patient handoff, to review the barriers to performing effective handoffs in academic health centers, to identify available solutions to improve handoffs, and to provide a structured approach to educating residents on handoffs via a curricular blueprint. The authors' blueprint was developed to guide educators in customizing handoff education programs to fit their specific, local needs. Hopefully, it also will provide a starting point for future research into improving the patient handoff. Increasingly complex patient care environments require both innovations in handoff education and improvements in patient care systems to improve continuity of care.

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