Development of an Interactive Dashboard to Analyze Cognitive Workload of Surgical Teams During Complex Procedural Care

IEEE Int Interdiscip Conf Cogn Methods Situat Aware Decis Support. 2018 Jun;2018:77-82. doi: 10.1109/COGSIMA.2018.8423995. Epub 2018 Aug 2.


In the surgical setting, team members constantly deal with a high-demand operative environment that requires simultaneously processing a large amount of information. In certain situations, high demands imposed by surgical tasks and other sources may exceed team member's cognitive capacity, leading to cognitive overload which may place patient safety at risk. In the present study, we describe a novel approach to integrate an objective measure of team member's cognitive load with procedural, behavioral and contextual data from real-life cardiac surgeries. We used heart rate variability analysis, capturing data simultaneously from multiple team members (surgeon, anesthesiologist and perfusionist) in a real-time and unobtrusive manner. Using audio-video recordings, behavioral coding and a hierarchical surgical process model, we integrated multiple data sources to create an interactive surgical dashboard, enabling the analysis of the cognitive load imposed by specific steps, substeps and/or tasks. The described approach enables us to detect cognitive load fluctuations over time, under specific conditions (e.g. emergencies, teaching) and in situations that are prone to errors. This in-depth understanding of the relationship between cognitive load, task demands and error occurrence is essential for the development of cognitive support systems to recognize and mitigate errors during complex surgical care in the operating room.

Keywords: cardiac surgery; cognitive load; heart rate variability; process model.