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Tuesday January 5, 2021  |  Erin Glanz, MSN, RN CNOR, NE-BC Director, Perioperative Product Management at MEDHOST

Decreasing Distractions in the Operating Room to Improve Patient Safety

surgeon looking at operating screen

Effective, accurate, and timely communication among team members is an important part of patient care1 and can be negatively impacted by distraction and noise.

The Joint Commission in 2014 found that communication breakdown is the third most identified root cause of for sentinel events.2 The impact of distractions can range from critical patient information not being communicated, prolonged procedures, potential errors in patient care, and surgical site infections.3,5

Distractions can be related to patient care such as alarms, obtaining supplies, and patient care conversations or can be non-patient care related such as personal conversations or internet use. It has also been found that one of the top health technology hazards in 2020 is “alarm, alert, and notification overload”.4 While communicating and documenting patient care is an essential step in proving patient care it has been found that Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems that are labor intensive or do not operate correctly can become distractions.5 Personnel movement in and out of the room to obtain supplies and equipment that is needed for a procedure is also a distraction.5

During the critical phases of care, strategies should be implemented to reduce distractions and ensure patient safety is maintained.6 Critical phases of care include preoperative briefing, time out, anesthesia induction, counting process, and specimen. Preference cards need to be kept up to date to decrease the distraction of and time wasted by staff leaving the Operating Room to obtain supplies.4 The development of standardized checklists for critical phases ensures that all team members are actively involved during critical phases, and a standardized process is followed.7 Providing an effective EHR documentation system that reduces the duplicate documentation and provides quick access to the patient’s health information such as labs, previous documentation, or orders within the Perioperative workflow.

MEDHOST Perioperative Experience provides the ability for preference cards to be updated electronically and to have the changes reflected on all future cases. This ensures that the most accurate information is available for supplies, equipment, instruments, and special instructions so that everything is in place prior to the start of the surgery reducing distractions. Standardized checklists can be built and available within Perioperative Experience to ensure that the required checks and balances are in place to improve patient safety. Clinical documentation is fully integrated with MEDHOST Enterprise to provide continuity of data and ease of access to the patient’s health record. Nurses accessing the patient’s information from Perioperative Experience will only need to log into one system to access items such as patient medical history, labs, past vitals, and orders.

Want to learn more about how MEDHOST solutions can help increase efficiencies and reduce operating room distractions, contact us at or call 1.800.383.6278.

1 Shambo L, Umadhay T, Pedoto A. Music in the operating room: is it a safety hazard? AANA J. 2015;83(1):43-48.
2 The Joint Commission. Patient safety. Joint Commission Online.
3 Yoong W, Khin A, Ramlal N, Loabile B, Forman S. Interruptions and distractions in the gynaecological operating theatre: irritating or dangerous? Ergonomics. 2015;58(8):1314-1319.
4 ECRI. Special Report: Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2020: Expert Insights From Health Devices [registration required]. Accessed December  22, 2020.
5 AORN. AORN Position Statement on Managing Distractions and Noise During Perioperative Patient Case. Denver, CO: AORN, INC; 2020. Accessed December 22, 2020.
6 Guideline for team communication. In: Guidelines for Perioperative Practice. Denver, CO: AORN,INC; 2020: 1039-1070.

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