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Hospital Handoffs as Multifunctional Situated Routines: Implications for Researchers and Administrators

Biennial Review of Health Care Management

ISBN: 978-0-85724-713-1, eISBN: 978-0-85724-714-8

Publication date: 7 October 2011


Patient handoffs involve the exchange of information between health professionals accompanying a transfer of responsibility for, or control of, a patient. Concerns over the safety risks of poor handoffs have resulted in regulatory pressure to standardize practice and considerable growth in research. But handoffs involve more than information transfer, and their consequences for health care organizations extend beyond the safety of patients. Using an organization theory lens, we review the literature on handoffs and propose a framework that characterizes handoffs as multifunctional, situated organizational routines. We also identify implications for researchers and hospital policymakers. Standardization and improvement efforts run the risk of causing unintended problems if they overlook the complexity of handoff and the larger organizational functions it serves. Deepening our understanding of the multifunctional, situated nature of handoff can lead to improvement efforts that not only safeguard individual patients, but also enhance the capabilities of the larger health care organization.


Hilligoss, B. and Cohen, M.D. (2011), "Hospital Handoffs as Multifunctional Situated Routines: Implications for Researchers and Administrators", Blair, J.D. and Fottler, M.D. (Ed.) Biennial Review of Health Care Management (Advances in Health Care Management, Vol. 11), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 91-132.



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