The study compared paper-based and electronic-based medical handover with respect to quality of information transfer during hospital out-of-hours shifts, and analysed the caseload burden of the hospital night team. The participants were 1645 hospital patients transferred from the day team to the out-of-hours team over four months in 2006. Quality of information transfer was determined by clinical data handed over within pre-set fields, and caseload burden by the frequency of tasks required at handover. Handover information fields comprised patient's demographics and location, primary diagnosis, current problem, plan of action and primary care team details. Electronic handover achieved a significantly higher number of completed fields than paper-based handover. Blood collection, checking blood and X-ray results, and adjusting fluid balance and intravenous cannulation account for most of the workload during the nightshift. Electronic handover provides better continuity of care than paper-based handover, and redistribution of tasks during working hours would benefit night staff.
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