A Review of Verbal and Written Patient Handoffs Applicable to the U.S. Military's Expeditionary Care System

Nicholas E. Kunce*, Arthur Lyon*, Duncan Carlton*, Theepica Jeyarajah, Catherine M. Strayhorn, Joseph Lopreiato*, Ramey Wilson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: Long considered a danger point in patient care, handoffs and patient care transitions contribute to medical errors and adverse events. Without standardization of patient handoffs, communication breakdowns arise and critical patient information is lost. Minimal training and informal learning have led to a lack of understanding the process involved in this vital aspect of patient care. In 2017, the U.S. Army commissioned a report to study the process of patient handoffs and identify training gaps. Our report summarizes that process and makes recommendations for implementation. Materials and Methods: Scoping literature review of 139 articles published between 1999 and 2017 using PubMed, CINAHL, Cochrane, and Medline databases. Verbal tools for handoffs were evaluated against 12 criteria including patient ID, history, current situation, contingency planning, ability to ask questions, ownership, and read back. Written tools were evaluated against a matrix of 126 casualty/treatment attributes. Results: Among verbal communication protocols, the highest scoring handoff mnemonics were HAND ME AN ISOBAR, IPASS the BATON, and I-SBARQ. Among written handoff tools, the highest scoring documents were the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Mechanism, Injuries, Signs, and Treatment (MIST) Casualty Treatment Card and the Department of Defense (DD) Form 1380 Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) Card. Four critical process elements for patient handoffs and transfers were identified: (1) interactive communications, (2) limited interruptions, (3) a process for verification, and (4) an opportunity to review any relevant historical data. Conclusions: The findings in this review highlight the need for standardized tools and techniques for patient handoffs in the U.S. Military's expeditionary care system. Future research is needed to trial verbal and nonverbal handoffs under field conditions to gather observational data to assess effectiveness. The results of our gap analyses may provide researchers insight for determining which handoffs to study. If standardized handoffs are utilized, training programs should incorporate the four critical elements into their curricula.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E76-E81
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


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