Information transfer in multidisciplinary operating room teams: a simulation-based observational study

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Abstract

Background

Communication of clinically relevant information between members of the operating room (OR) team is critical for safe patient care. Formal communication processes, such as briefing, sign in and time out, are designed to promote this.

Aims

We investigated patterns of communication of clinically relevant information between OR staff in simulated surgical scenarios, to identify factors associated with effective information sharing. We focused on the influence of precase briefing, sign in and time out, which we defined as formal team communications.

Method

Twenty teams of six participated in two scenarios during a day-long course. Participants each received unique, clinically relevant items of information (information probes) prior to simulations and were tested postscenario on recall of the information in the probe. Using videos of the simulations, we coded each time an information probe was mentioned against a structured framework.

Results

Of the 145 instances where a probe was mentioned at least once, 75 (51.7%) were mentioned during a formal team communication. However, there were 89 instances of a possible 234 (38%) where a probe was never mentioned. Some team members were more likely to mention the information than others. When probes were mentioned during formal team communications, significantly more team members were attentive (1.4 vs 2.3; p<0.001), the information was significantly more likely to be recalled and the team was five times more likely (p=0.01) to recall the information than if the information was only mentioned outside of a formal communication.

Conclusions

While our study supports the value of formal team communications during precase briefing, sign in and time out in the Surgical Safety Checklist, our findings suggest suboptimal transmission of information between team members and unequal contributions of information by different professional groups.

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