Handover Structure and Quality in the Acute Medical Assessment Unit: A Prospective Observational Study

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Inadequate patient handovers are associated with the occurrence of medical errors. The objective of the present study was to explore the structure and quality of handovers in the acute medical assessment unit.


A prospective observational study was conducted in an academic hospital in the Netherlands. Handover structure was observed by ordering handover information according to the elements of the Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation, and Read back (SBAR-R) handover tool. Handover quality was measured by means of a questionnaire, i.e., the rating tool for handover quality, and by assessing situation awareness of the degree to which professionals after a handover agreed on the complexity of the patient's care needs.


A total of 71 handovers were observed. In most handovers, different elements of the SBAR-R were used frequently (median, 7.5 elements; range, 2.0–15.0). On the quality of handovers, 109 respondents (44.1%) completed the questionnaire. On a 0-to-100 scale, median scores on information transfer were 67.9 (interquartile range [IQR],17.9), 75.0 (IQR, 25.0) on shared understanding, and 75.0 (IQR, 16.7) on working atmosphere. Agreement in situation awareness was 70.0%.


Handovers in the acute medical assessment unit were poorly structured; however, the perceived quality of handovers was substantial. Implementing the SBAR-R may be an effective strategy to improve handover practice and situation awareness, although further study to its applicability in acute medical assessment units is necessary.

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