Traditional approaches to patient safety and handoffs need redesigning to acknowledge the different constraints, goals, and requirements necessary for each individual patient. There is no “one size fits all” approach to patient safety, handoffs or a perfect checklist. Despite the inherit complexity present in healthcare systems, we tend to reduce our thinking about handoffs into simple solutions of checklists and cognitive aids.
In studies of these tools, their association with patient outcomes is unclear with mixed results in large studies. Incorporating general resilience engineering principles of visibility, understanding, anticipation, and learning provides new opportunities for increased patient safety. This involves situating the handoff in the context of the system - understanding the process of summarising pre-handoff and of developing understanding post-handoff, tracing flows of information and patients, and considering the role of feedback and control loops in the system.
Direct observations, analysis of multiple outcomes, focus on patient evolving specific exceptions, reducing the number of handoffs, taking time for two-way discussions, and user-centred design and redesign may promote acceptability and sustainability of a new view of handoffs for improved patient safety.
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