In search of common ground in handoff documentation in an Intensive Care Unit

Sarah A. Collins, Lena Mamykina, Desmond Jordan, Dan M. Stein, Alisabeth Shine, Paul Reyfman, David Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Objective: Handoff is an intra-disciplinary process, yet the flow of critical handoff information spans multiple disciplines. Understanding this information flow is important for the development of computer-based tools that supports the communication and coordination of patient care in a multi-disciplinary and highly specialized critical care setting. We aimed to understand the structure, functionality, and content of nurses' and physicians' handoff artifacts. Design: We analyzed 22 nurses' and physicians' handoff artifacts from a Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU) at a large urban medical center. We combined artifact analysis with semantic coding based on our published Interdisciplinary Handoff Information Coding (IHIC) framework for a novel two-step data analysis approach. Results: We found a high degree of structure and overlap in the content of nursing and physician artifacts. Our findings demonstrated a non-technical, yet sophisticated, system with a high degree of structure for the organization and communication of patient data that functions to coordinate the work of multiple disciplines in a highly specialized unit of patient care. Limitations: This study took place in one CTICU. Further work is needed to determine the generalizability of the results. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that the development of semi-structured patient-centered interdisciplinary handoff tools with discipline specific views customized for specialty settings may effectively support handoff communication and patient safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-315
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Handoff
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Patient-centered

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


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