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HL20: Vineet Arora, MD—Studies in Sleep, Success in Handoffs

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, December 13, 2011

Arora also has concentrated on studying handoffs from one physician to another in hospital settings as they change shifts, with a specific emphasis on communication procedures. In the 1990s, “when I was a resident, you never had to hand off anything,” she says. “A good handoff was no handoff. That meant you stayed until your work was done. People are now aware it’s a problem, and the challenge to the system is to make better handoffs.”

The importance of proper communication in handoffs cannot be overstated, but it is often difficult to address, she says. “I think it's a very big assumption you can just hand off patients to another doctor and this new doctor is going to do a surgery, for instance, with the same skill. Patients often say, 'why am I repeating the story' to a new doctor. The reason patients are repeating their stories is because there is something different. A detail is discovered that builds a new memory of the patient's condition and needs.”

Arora says she loves research and teaching, and the impact that can have on improving health systems. She uses play-acting to get a visual message across when she can. She and her colleagues put together a video in which she plays a physician who didn't do a very good job of handing off information to her harried colleague because she had to rush out of the hospital after being “super late” for dinner plans.

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