Educational interventions to improve handover in health care: a systematic review


Morris Gordon, Room MS 1.90, Mary Seacole Building, University of Salford, Salford, Greater Manchester, M5 4WT, UK. Tel: 00 44 7816 687791; E-mail:


Medical Education 2011: 45: 1081–1089

Context  Effective handover within the health care setting is vital to patient safety. Despite published literature discussing strategies to improve handover, the extent to which educational interventions have been used and how such interventions relate to the published theoretical models of handover remain unclear. These issues were investigated through a systematic review of the literature.

Methods  Any studies involving educational interventions to improve handover amongst undergraduate or postgraduate doctors or nurses were considered. A standardised search of online databases was carried out independently by both authors and consensus reached on the inclusion of studies. Data extraction and quality assessment were also completed independently, after which a content analysis of interventions was conducted and key themes extracted.

Results  Ten studies met the inclusion criteria. Nine studies reported outcomes demonstrating improved attitudes or knowledge and skills, and one demonstrated transfer of skills to the workplace. Amongst the included studies, the strength of conclusions was variable. Poor reporting of interventions impeded replication. Analysis of available content revealed themes in three major areas: teamwork and leadership; professional responsibility with regard to error prevention, and information management systems. Methods used included exercises based on simulation and role-play, and group discussions or lectures focused on errors and patient safety.

Conclusions  There is a paucity of research describing educational interventions to improve handover and assessing their effectiveness. The quality of published studies is generally poor. Some evidence exists to demonstrate that skills can be transferred to the workplace, but none was found to demonstrate that interventions improve patient safety.