An evidence synthesis on perioperative Handoffs: A call for balanced sociotechnical solutions

Joanna Abraham, Caoimhe Duffy, Madhumitha Kandasamy, Dan France, Philip Greilich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Significance: Perioperative handoffs interconnect the preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative phases underlying surgical care to maintain care continuity —yet are prone to coordination and communication failures. Objective: To synthesize evidence on factors affecting the safety and quality of perioperative handoff conduct and process. Materials and Methods: A search of PubMed, EMBASE, and CINAHL was conducted to include observational, descriptive studies of preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative handoffs published in English language, peer-reviewed journals. Data analysis was informed by the Systems Engineering Initiative for Patient Safety (SEIPS) framework describing the relationship between the work-system, work processes, and outcomes. Study quality was assessed using the Quality Scoring System. Results: Twenty-three studies were included. Eighteen studies focused on postoperative handoffs, with one on preoperative, three on intraoperative and only one that looked at preoperative/postoperative handoffs combined. The SEIPS framework elucidated the complex inter-related factors (enablers and barriers) related to perioperative handoff safety. While some studies found that the use of standardized handoff tools and protocols and interdisciplinary teamwork were frequently-reported enablers, other studies identified the lack of structured handoff tools and protocols, poor teamwork and communication, and improper use of documentation tools were top-cited barriers affecting handoff quality. Suggestions to ensure handoff safety and quality included implementing structured handoff checklists and protocols and building interprofessional teamwork competencies for effective communication. Discussion and Conclusion: Our review highlights an urgency to develop more holistic sociotechnical solutions that can create and sustain a balance between technical innovations in tools and technologies and the non-technical interventions/training needed to improve interpersonal relations and teamwork competencies – taken together, can improve the quality and safety of perioperative handoff practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105038
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Informatics
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Anesthesia
  • Handoff
  • Handover
  • Surgery
  • Systematic Review
  • Transitions in Care


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