Residents’ Corner

Handoffs in Dermatology Residency

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Evidence Behind Handoff Practices

There are data in the dermatology literature to support utilizing electronic means for handoff practices. At a tertiary dermatology department in Melbourne, Australia, providers created a novel electronic handover system using Microsoft programs to be used alongside the main hospital EHR to help practitioners keep track of outpatient studies.3 An audit of this system demonstrated that its use provided a reliable system for follow-up on all outpatient results, with benefits in clinical, organizational, and health research domains.4 The investigators noted that residents, registrars, nurses, and consultants utilized the electronic handover system, with residents completing 90% of all tasks.3 Similarly, several residents I spoke with personally cited using Listrunner (, a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act–compliant electronic tool outside of the EHR designed for collaborative management of patient lists.

Outside of the dermatology literature, resident handoff in the outpatient setting mainly has been studied in the primary care year-end transition of care, with findings that are certainly relevant to dermatology residency. Pincavage et al5 performed a targeted literature search on year-end handoff practices, and Donnelly et al6 studied internal medicine residents in an outpatient ambulatory clinic; both supported implementing a standardized process for sign-out. Pincavage et al5 also recommended focusing on high-risk patients, educating residents on handoff practices, preparing patients for the transition, and performing safety audits. Donnelly et al6 found that providing time dedicated to patient handoff and clear expectations improved handoff practices.

There is extensive literature on handoff practices in the inpatient setting sparked by an increasing number of handoffs after the implementation of Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education duty hour restrictions in 1989. Some of the guiding principles may be applied to the outpatient dermatology setting. Many residents may be familiar with mnemonics that have been developed to organize content during sign-out, which have been shown to improve provider care information transfer for inpatients (Table).7,8 Vidyarthi et al7 provided the following strategies for best practices for safe handoff based on both a review of the literature and their experiences at 3 academic internal medicine hospitalist programs: (1) organized content, (2) computer-assisted vehicle, (3) closed loop verbal communication, and (4) supportive institutional leadership and culture.

Other Considerations

An important consideration during patient handoffs is security, especially when implementing documentation and tools outside of the EHR. It is important for providers to be compliant with institutional policies as well as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and ensure protection against cyberattacks, which have been on the rise; 83% of 1300 physicians surveyed have been the victim of a cyberattack.9 Providers also should be mindful of redundancies in organizational and handoff practices. Multiple methods for keeping track of information helps ensure that important results do not fall through the cracks. However, too many redundancies may be wasteful of a practice’s resources and providers’ time.

Final Thoughts

There are varied practices regarding organization of handoff and follow-up. Residency should serve as an opportunity for physicians to become familiar with different practices. Becoming familiar with the varied options may be helpful to take forward in one’s career, especially given that dermatologists may enter a work setting postresidency with practices that are different from where they trained. Additionally, given rapid shifts in technologies, providers must change how they stay organized. This evolving landscape provides an opportunity for the next generation of dermatologists to take leadership to shape the future of organizational practices.


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