Interprofessional Communication

Healthcare Teams, Patient Handoffs, and Multiteam Systems

Authored by: Kevin Real , Anne Ray Streeter , Marshall Scott Poole

The Routledge Handbook of Health Communication

Print publication date:  September  2021
Online publication date:  September  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367488956
eBook ISBN: 9781003043379
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines interprofessional communication through the lens of healthcare teams, patient handoffs, and multiteam systems, key elements of communication systems in healthcare organizations. An emerging body of research illustrates how built environments shape healthcare team communication and patient care processes. Proximity and visibility are highlighted as important design features of effective environments, and recent observational research is reviewed that underscores the complex and multifaceted nature of team communication. Patient handoffs are examined for their critical role in patient safety. Specific strategies to improve handoff communication competency are explored, as is extant research on use of specific handoff tools and technology to facilitate effective handoff communication. Multiteam systems are an element of interprofessional communication important to both teams and handoffs. Communication across multiteam systems is illustrated using a typology based on a continuum of interdependence, boundedness, centralization, and diversity. Network homophily is briefly reviewed for its effect on interprofessional communication, including creation of fault lines among team members. Communication researchers are positioned to examine how communication in healthcare teams, patient handoffs, and multiteam systems can be enhanced through communication structures designed to improve patient safety and increase clarity, shared goals, shared responsibility, and team competence.

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