Lowering communication barriers in operating room technology

Hum Factors. Winter 2006;48(4):747-58. doi: 10.1518/001872006779166271.


Objectives: This paper examines the effects of new technology on team communication and information flow in a complex work environment, and offers design suggestions for improved team performance.

Background: Case study of a robot-assisted cholecystectomy procedure revealed teamwork disruption and an increase in the complexity of information flow and communication in the operating room as a result of the novel technology. A controlled experiment using a between-subjects design was conducted to test the hypothesis that providing critical information in a timely and accessible manner would increase communication efficiency and reduce errors in task performance.

Methods: Eighteen pairs of participants took part in a simulated tool-changing task in surgery under one of three communication conditions: (a) no rules, (b) scripted, or (c) automated.

Results: Teams in the scripted and automated conditions performed significantly faster than the no-rules teams (p < .05). Teams in the automated condition made significantly more errors than those in the scripted condition (p < .05).

Conclusion: Scripted speech can facilitate team communication and adaptation to new technology; automatic information display interfaces are not useful if the modality is incompatible with operator expectations.

Application: Information displays and communication protocols can be designed to ease adaptation to complex operating room technology.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cholecystectomy
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Humans
  • Operating Rooms*
  • Robotics
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Workforce