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Authors Hu YY, Arriaga AF, Peyre SE, Corso KA, Roth EM, Greenberg CC
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Journal J. Surg. Res. Volume: 177 Issue: 1 Pages: 37-42
Publish Date 2012 Sep
PubMed ID 22591922
PMC ID 4539247

Communication failure is a common contributor to adverse events. We sought to characterize communication failures during complex operations.We video recorded and transcribed six complex operations, representing 22 h of patient care. For each communication event, we determined the participants and the content discussed. Failures were classified into four types: audience (key individuals missing), purpose (issue nonresolution), content (insufficient/inaccurate information), and/or occasion (futile timing). We added a systems category to reflect communication occurring at the organizational level. The impact of each identified failure was described.We observed communication failures in every case (mean 29, median 28, range 13-48), at a rate of one every 8 min. Cross-disciplinary exchanges resulted in failure nearly twice as often as intradisciplinary ones. Discussions about or mandated by hospital policy (20%), personnel (18%), or other patient care (17%) were most error prone. Audience and purpose each accounted for >40% of failures. A substantial proportion (26%) reflected flawed systems for communication, particularly those for disseminating policy (29% of system failures), coordinating personnel (27%), and conveying the procedure planned (27%) or the equipment needed (24%). In 81% of failures, inefficiency (extraneous discussion and/or work) resulted. Resource waste (19%) and work-arounds (13%) also were frequently seen.During complex operations, communication failures occur frequently and lead to inefficiency. Prevention may be achieved by improving synchronous, cross-disciplinary communication. The rate of failure during discussions about/mandated by policy highlights the need for carefully designed standardized interventions. System-level support for asynchronous perioperative communication may streamline operating room coordination and preparation efforts.

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