Perioperative team communication through a mobile app for improving coordination and education in neurosurgery cases

J Neurosurg. 2021 Sep 24;136(4):1157-1163. doi: 10.3171/2021.4.JNS21485. Print 2022 Apr 1.


Objective: Miscommunication and poor coordination among surgical teams are known causes of preventable medical harms and operating room inefficiencies and inhibit surgical training. Technology may help overcome these challenges. This study used the personal experience of one of the authors as a former Air Force F-15 pilot to design a combat aviation pre- and postoperative communication workflow in the neurosurgery department and tested its effect on safety, efficiency, and education. The authors hypothesized that the adoption of this workflow through a tailored technological platform will increase compliance and improve the chances of sustainability.

Methods: Data were prospectively collected from neurosurgery cases before (January-May 2020) and after (June-October 2020) implementation of this workflow. Briefing and debriefing were executed using a custom mobile platform and were defined as nonmandatory for all participants. All faculty and residents who operated at NYU Langone Medical Center (Tisch campus) during the intervention period were enrolled on the platform. Primary outcomes were morbidity and mortality per the department's criteria, and intraoperative last-minute requests as reported by operating room staff in a double-blinded fashion. Secondary outcomes were user responses on the subjective questionnaires.

Results: Data were collected from 637 and 893 cases during the preintervention and intervention periods, respectively. The average briefing rates for residents and surgeons were 71% and 81%, respectively, and the average debriefing rates for residents and surgeons were 67% and 88%. There was no significant difference in preoperative risk score between the preintervention and intervention patient populations (p = 0.24). The rate of intraoperative last-minute requests significantly decreased from 16.6% (35/211) to 10.5% (35/334, p = 0.048). There was no significant change in morbidity and mortality between the preintervention and intervention periods. On subjective questionnaires there was a statistically significant improvement in safety, efficiency, and educational aspects of the cases during the intervention period.

Conclusions: Implementation of aviation-like structured team communication practices in the neurosurgery department through a technological platform improved education and communication between surgical teams and led to a reduction in last-minute surgical requests that could impact costs.

Keywords: briefing; communication; education; efficiency; quality; safety.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Neurosurgery*
  • Neurosurgical Procedures
  • Operating Rooms