Warm Handoffs for Improving Client Receipt of Services: A Systematic Review Link copied to clipboard

January 2021


R. Morgan Taylor and Cynthia S. Minkovitz


Warm handoffs intend to improve receipt of services by clients who receive referrals to services that are stigmatized or not easily accessible. Such strategies are characterized as the handoff or transfer of an individual between two service providers through a face-to-face, phone, or technology-assisted interaction. This approach may be useful for maternal and child health home visitors who provide direct services and facilitate connections to community resources for client families. However, little is known about the effectiveness of warm handoffs. Methods: A systematic review of the literature on warm handoffs was conducted with studies identified in four databases. Full text was reviewed for studies for which abstracts met inclusion criteria or for which abstracts were not available. Evidence tables summarizing study characteristics, outcome measures and data sources, intervention descriptions, intervention components, and study results were constructed. Results: Of the 42,816 unique articles identified, 32,163 titles/abstracts were screened, 227 qualified for full text review, and five comprised the study sample. Three studies examined referrals from substance use treatment centers to self-help groups, one from federally qualified health centers to community mental health clinics, and one from a mobile needle exchange program to substance use treatment/intake. Three studies showed increases in receipt of services by clients following referral between the warm handoff intervention and control group. Discussion: Current evidence regarding the effectiveness of warm handoffs is limited. An examination of the effectiveness of warm handoffs in the context of home visits is needed to assess whether they facilitate client referrals.

Access Type: Open Access

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