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Table of Contents
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 5-6

Perioperative Communication: Challenges and Opportunities for Anesthesiologists

1 Department of Anesthesia, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
2 Department of Anesthesia, University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
3 Department of Psychiatry, California Northstate University College of Medicine, California, USA
4 Department of Anesthesiology, Temple University's Katz College of Medicine, Philadelphia, USA

Date of Web Publication15-Mar-2018

Correspondence Address:
Sudhakar Subramani
Department of Anesthesia, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/joacp.JOACP_37_18

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How to cite this article:
Subramani S, Garg S, Singh AP, Sinha AC. Perioperative Communication: Challenges and Opportunities for Anesthesiologists. J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol 2018;34:5-6

How to cite this URL:
Subramani S, Garg S, Singh AP, Sinha AC. Perioperative Communication: Challenges and Opportunities for Anesthesiologists. J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol [serial online] 2018 [cited 2021 Apr 17];34:5-6. Available from:

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place

George Bernard Shaw

On March 27 1977, two Boeing 747 jets collided on the foggy and over-congested runway of Los Rodeos Airport, Canary Islands. Captain of one of the jets had decided to take off while the other was still taxiing on the runway. Ensuing investigation revealed misinterpretation of communication between the pilots and air traffic control, leading to the fatal “human error,” which lead to a loss of 583 lives. It is the deadliest accident in the history of aviation.

In 1979, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) developed the Crew Resource Management (CRM) system to mitigate stress-induced errors in critical and emergency situations in an airline's flight deck, which is now pertinent in healthcare situations and operation rooms as well.[1],[2] CRM is a system that develops and utilizes resources to endorse safety within the workplace. Its training incorporates the development of a wide range of attributes such as knowledge, skills, communications, situational awareness, problem solving, decision making, and teamwork, along with the attendant subdisciplines related to each of these areas [Figure 1]. It emphasizes precise and appropriate communication.
Figure 1: The primary goals and attributes of Crew Resource Management

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The word communication is derived from the Latin word “communicare,” which means “to impart” or “to participate.” Apt communication is fundamental in the delivery of high-quality health care. The ability to conduct proper interaction with the patient as well as the perioperative team affects the professional standards, patient outcomes, and anesthesiologist's personal values. In day-to-day practice, we partake in complex social collaborations which amount to ethical, medicolegal, and personal consequences.[3] Lack of appropriate communication among medical care providers may result in hypothetically preventable disastrous medical errors.[4] Anesthesiologists with effective interpersonal and communication skills can preempt medical disasters, expensive intervention, and ensure provision of better patient support.

Gawande conducted confidential interviews and observed that 43% of adverse events were a direct result of communication failures between 2 or more clinicians.[4] The landmark study by Lingard et al.[5] (421 communication failure events over a period of 3 months) characterized lapses in communication into four important reasons: (1) Occasion: in which timing of an exchange was requested or provided too late to be useful; (2) Content: in which information was missing or inaccurate; (3) Purpose: in which issues were not resolved; and (4) Audience: in which key individuals were excluded. The authors detected that 36% of communication failures resulted in perceptible effects on system processes including ineptitude, tension between teams, wastage of resources, delays, inconvenience to patients, and procedural errors.

Various factors determine successful patient outcomes, most important being the expertise, knowledge, and skill levels of surgeons, anesthesiologists, paramedical staff, electrophysiologists, etc., Furthermore, many communication tools such as TeamSTEPPS (Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety), SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation), handovers, and briefing and debriefing have been implemented in the perioperative setup to ensure patient safety.[6]

Nevertheless, it is extremely dependent upon good and effective communication among team members.

Tewari et al. highlighted the importance of communication between the perioperative anesthesiologists and the intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring (IONM) team in this issue.[7] Regardless of a long history of more than 30 years, the practice of IONM has only lately come into widespread use in neuro-orthopedic surgeries. Advances in anesthesiology have greatly improved the utility and accuracy of IONM. The knowledge and experience of the anesthesiologists about the basic electrophysiology in the operating room, as well as active communication with the IONM team, contributes significantly in the acquisition of appropriate evoked potentials during the case and helps attenuate adverse neurological outcomes for the patients. It is debatable if IONM is becoming the “standard of care” for neurosurgery or spine surgery; various studies have been and more are being published proving its relevance in improving outcomes.

As both IONM and anesthesia deal with neural transmission, this article should provide an impetus for further research on the interaction of anesthetic drugs on waveform acquisition in various IONM modalities, and other opportunities for improved communication during the periprocedural period. It is time to devise, test, and develop institutional protocols that ensure that anesthesiologists improve their communication skills with patients, surgeons, and other members of the perioperative team. The art of anesthesia is reliant on professionalism and a significant part of that is communication. A team that utilizes a variety of communication skills personifies vastly developed professionalism. Obligation to professionalism calls anesthesiologists to play the role of team leader and their commitment will define them as individuals accomplished of “speaking forth,” which literally interprets as “profession.“

The patient will never care how much you know, until they know how much you care.“…Terry Canale.[8]

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Rocque BG. Error in the eye of the beholder: Crew resource management in neurosurgery. J Neurosurg 2016;125:1616-7.  Back to cited text no. 1
Skinner S, Sala F. Communication and collaboration in spine neuromonitoring: Time to expect more, a lot more, from the neurophysiologists. J Neurosurg Spine 2017;27:1-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
Kopp VJ, Shafer A. Anesthesiologists and Perioperative Communication. Anesthesiology 2000;93:548-55.  Back to cited text no. 3
Gawande AA, Zinner MJ, Studdert DM, Brennan TA. Analysis of errors reported by surgeons at three teaching hospitals. Surgery 2003;133:614-21.  Back to cited text no. 4
Lingard L, Espin S, Whyte S, Regehr G, Baker GR, Reznick R, et al. Communication failures in the operating room: An observational classification of recurrent types and effects. Qual Saf Health Care 2004;13:330-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
Garrett JH Jr. Effective Perioperative Communication to Enhance Patient Care. AORN J 2016;104:111-20.  Back to cited text no. 6
Tewari A, Francis L, Samy RN, Kurth DC, Castle J, Frye T, et al. Intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring team's communiqué with anesthesia professionals. J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol 2018;34:84-92.  Back to cited text no. 7
  [Full text]  
Tongue JR, Epps HR, Forese LL. Communication skills for patient-centered care: Research-based, easily learned techniques for medical interviews that benefit orthopaedic surgeons and their patients. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2005;87:652-8.  Back to cited text no. 8


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