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J Biomed Inform. 2011 Aug;44(4):704-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2011.01.013. Epub 2011 Feb 2.

Content overlap in nurse and physician handoff artifacts and the potential role of electronic health records: a systematic review.

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Department of Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.



The aims of this systematic review were: (1) to analyze the content overlap between nurse and physician hospital-based handoff documentation for the purpose of developing a list of interdisciplinary handoff information for use in the future development of shared and tailored computer-based handoff tools, and (2) to evaluate the utility of the Continuity of Care Document (CCD) standard as a framework for organizing hospital-based handoff information for use in electronic health records (EHRs).


We searched PubMed for studies published through July 2010 containing the indexed terms: handoff(s), hand-off, handover(s), shift-report, shift report, signout, and sign-out. Original, hospital-based studies of acute care nursing or physician handoff were included. Handoff information content was organized into lists of nursing, physician, and interdisciplinary handoff information elements. These information element lists were organized using CCD sections, with additional sections being added as needed.


Analysis of 36 studies resulted in a total of 95 handoff information elements. Forty-six percent (44/95) of the information overlapped between the nurse and physician handoff lists. Thirty-six percent (34/95) were specific to the nursing list and 18% (17/95) were specific to the physician list. The CCD standard was useful for categorizing 80% of the terms in the lists and 12 category names were developed for the remaining 20%.


Standardized interdisciplinary, nursing-specific, and physician-specific handoff information elements that are organized around the CCD standard and incorporated into EHRs in a structured narrative format may increase the consistency of data shared across all handoffs, facilitate the establishment of common ground, and increase interdisciplinary communication.

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