OR Teamwork Makes Surgery Safer

February 1, 2011 | Health System Risk Management


A team approach in the operating room (OR) can reduce patient deaths from surgery, according to a study of medical team training conducted by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The study—published in the October 20, 2010, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (Neily et al.)—is the first large study to demonstrate an association between medical team training and reduced surgical mortality rates. Other studies have shown how teamwork in the OR can improve safety attitudes and communication and reduce errors.

After pilot testing a medical team training program, VHA in 2006 directed its facilities that perform surgery or have one or more intensive care units to participate in medical team training. The training program emphasizes the use of preoperative briefings and postoperative debriefings involving all members of the surgical team. During the briefing, the team discusses the case and encourages all members to speak up about any safety concerns. The debriefing gives the team members a chance to review what worked well and what needs to be improved. The teams were taught to use checklists and other prompts...

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