Operating room managerial decision-making on the day of surgery with and without computer recommendations and status displays

  • Dexter F
  • Willemsen-Dunlap A
  • Lee J
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BACKGROUND: There are three basic types of decision aids to facilitate operating room (OR) management decision-making on the day of surgery. Decision makers can rely on passive status displays (e.g., big screens or whiteboards), active status displays (e.g., text pager notification), and/or command displays (e.g., text recommendations about what to do).

METHODS: Anesthesiologists, OR nurses, and housekeepers were given nine simulated scenarios (vignettes) involving multiple ORs to study their decision-making. Participants were randomized to one of four groups, all with an updated paper OR schedule: with/without command display and with/without passive status display.

RESULTS: Participants making decisions without command displays performed no better than random chance in terms of increasing the predictability of work hours, reducing over-utilized OR time, and increasing OR efficiency. Status displays had no effect on these end-points, whereas command displays improved the quality of decisions. In the scenarios for which the command displays provided recommendations that adversely affected safety, participants appropriately ignored advice.

CONCLUSIONS: Anesthesia providers and nursing staff made decisions that increased clinical work per unit time in each OR, even when doing so resulted in an increase in over-utilized OR time, higher staffing costs, unpredictable work hours, and/or mandatory overtime. Organizational culture and socialization during clinical training may be a cause. Command displays showed promise in mitigating this tendency. Additional investigations are in our companion paper.

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