Communication failure in the operating roomHalverson AL, Casey JT, Andersson J, Anderson K, Park C, Rademaker AW, Moorman D (2011) 149: 305-10

Communication errors have shown to be the main contributory factor for the occurrence of adverse events in healthcare. It is a primary point of vulnerability for patient safety and efficiency in the operating room. Teaching communication skills as part of a curriculum in operating team training is a method of reducing the incidence of such communication errors.

This study was primarily aimed at identifying the vulnerabilities of the intra-operative communications. The effect of an operative team training on the frequency or type of communication errors was also assessed.

The study included 150 hours of observation. These errors were classified using a modified version of a validated classification. The type of error, subject matter and the observed effects were recorded. The changes in the frequency or type of errors after introduction of an operative team training curriculum with communication skills were assessed.

Seventy six communication errors were observed within the 150 hours of observation. Overall, errors related to equipment (36%) and informing team members of the progress of the operation (24%) were the most common subjects. A significant reduction in communication errors was observed before and after team training (0.737 errors/hour vs. 0.270; p<0.001). After the training, 70% of errors were related to equipment. There was no significant change observed in the pattern of the type of errors or the observed consequences.

This study demonstrated that most communication errors in the operating room were related to equipment and informing members of the progress of the operation. Training of the operating team members on communication skills is successful in reducing the frequency of such errors.

This study has not demonstrated a change in the consequences of these communication errors with this training program. It has also failed to study the decrease of compliance with time, which is an important aspect following any training intervention.