NEW YORK – Displaying a low-tech, low-cost white board in the operating room during the “time out” before surgery can significantly improve memory retention among members of the surgical team, a new study suggests.
“We found that providing a white board that you can buy at any office supply store gives a visual stimulus on top of the verbal stimulus [that] improves retention of important information,” Dr. Aryan Meknat, the study author, said at the annual Minimally Invasive Surgery Week.
A surgical pause or “time out” performed before any operative procedure is a major component of the Joint Commission’s Universal Protocol to prevent wrong site, wrong procedure, and wrong person surgery. Retention of information presented during the surgical pause is essential, at the beginning of the case and for the duration of the procedure, he said.
During the study, surgical teams were randomly divided into two groups: in the first group, 30 team members were given information verbally during the surgical pause; while a second group of 29 team members was provided with verbal information that was read from the white board. The white board was displayed in the operating room throughout the surgical procedure for the second group.
After the conclusion of the procedure, the white board was removed and both groups were given a short written questionnaire. Each team was tested only once in order to keep the study blinded. Also, participants had no prior knowledge that they would be tested after the procedure.
Study participants were asked to recall several facts about the patient, including the patient’s first and last name, age, sex, weight, site of IV placement, allergies, medications, relation of accompanying guardian, and the signature on the consent form.
Team members in the first study group answered a total of 300 questions, and 200 questions (66.7%) were correctly answered. Participants in the second group – which used the white board – answered 290 questions, and 239 (82.4%) were correctly answered. The white board group had a 23.6% overall increase in correctly answered questions. The difference between retention in the two groups was statistically significant (P less than .05) in every category tested.
“These findings apply to operating rooms everywhere, especially in cases where there may be long delays before starting the procedure, changes in anesthesia midcase, situations where two procedures are scheduled in one patient, or in intraoperative emergency situations. We need to be sure that the surgical team retains information, as well as [listens] to verbal instructions,” said Dr. Meknat of MobiSurg, a mobile surgical unit based in Laguna Hills, Calif.
Dr. Meknat reported having no financial disclosures.