Aims and objectives. This review aims to examine critically, the methods and modes of delivery of handover used in contemporary health care settings and explore the feasibility of a computerised handover system for improving patient safety.
Background. Clinicians play a critical role in promoting patient safety, and the handover ritual is recognised as important in exchanging information and planning patient care. Communication failures have been identified as an important cause of adverse incidents in hospitals.
Design. Integrative literature review.
Methods. Search of multiple electronic databases using terms: nursing handover, handoff, shift-to-shift reporting and change of shift report.
Discussion. To date, the focus of research has primarily been on the vehicle of the handover, rather than the content and processes involved in ensuring the reliability and quality of clinical information. Employing a computerised handover system in the clinical arena has the potential to improve the quality and safety of clinical care.
Conclusions. Whilst the handover performed from shift-to-shift is a valuable communication strategy, ambiguities and incomplete information can increase the risks of adverse events. Given the importance of effective communication, its key link to patient safety and the frequency of nursing handover, it is imperative that clinical handover undergo increased scrutiny, development and research.
Relevance to clinical practice. This review underscores the challenge in clinical handover and recommends the use of technological solutions to improve communication strategies.