Electronically Mediated Time-out Initiative to Reduce the Incidence of Wrong Surgery: An Interventional Observational Study

Anesthesiology. 2016 Sep;125(3):484-94. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000001194.


Background: "Wrong surgery" is defined as wrong site, wrong operation, or wrong patient, with estimated incidence up to 1 per 5,000 cases. Responding to national attention on wrong surgery, our objective was to create a care redesign intervention to minimize the rate of wrong surgery.

Methods: The authors created an electronic system using existing intraoperative electronic documentation to present a time-out checklist on large in-room displays. Time-out was dynamically interposed as a forced-function documentation step between "patient-in-operating room" and "incision." Time to complete documentation was obtained from audit logs. The authors measured the postimplementation wrong surgery rate and used Bayesian methods to compare the pre- and postimplementation rates at our institution. Previous probabilities were selected using wrong surgery rate estimates from the observed performance reported in the literature to generate previous probabilities (4.24 wrong surgeries per 100,000 cases).

Results: No documentation times exceeded 5 min; 97% of documentation tasks were completed within 2 min. The authors performed 243,939 operations over 5 yr using the system, with zero wrong surgeries, compared with 253,838 operations over 6 yr with two wrong surgeries before implementation. Bayesian analysis suggests an 84% probability that the postimplementation wrong rate is lower than baseline. However, given the rarity of wrong surgery in our sample, there is substantial uncertainty. The total system-development cost was $34,000, roughly half the published cost of one weighted median settlement for wrong surgery.

Conclusion: Implementation of a forced-completion electronically mediated time-out process before incision is feasible, but it is unclear whether true performance improvements occur.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Checklist / economics
  • Checklist / instrumentation*
  • Checklist / methods*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Medical Errors / economics
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control*
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Preoperative Care / economics
  • Preoperative Care / instrumentation*
  • Preoperative Care / methods*
  • United States