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Identifying and categorising patient safety hazards in cardiovascular operating rooms using an interdisciplinary approach: a multisite study


Background Cardiac surgery is a complex, high-risk procedure with potential vulnerabilities for patient safety. The evidence base describing safety hazards in the cardiovascular operating room is underdeveloped but is essential to guide future safety improvement efforts.

Objective To identify and categorise hazards (anything that has the potential to cause a preventable adverse patient safety event) in the cardiovascular operating room.

Methods An interdisciplinary team of researchers used prospective methods, including direct observations, contextual inquiry and photographs to collect hazard data pertaining to the cardiac surgery perioperative period, which started immediately before the patient was transferred to the operating room and ended immediately after patient handoff to the post-anaesthesia/intensive care unit. Data were collected between February and September 2008 in five hospitals. An interdisciplinary approach that included a human factors and systems engineering framework was used to guide the study.

Results Twenty cardiac surgeries including the corresponding handoff processes from operating room to post-anaesthesia/intensive care unit were observed. A total of 58 categories of hazards related to care providers (eg, practice variations), tasks (eg, high workload), tools and technologies (eg, poor usability), physical environment (eg, cluttered workspace), organisation (eg, hierarchical culture) and processes (eg, non-compliance with guidelines) were identified.

Discussion Hazards in cardiac surgery services are ubiquitous, indicating numerous opportunities to improve safety. Future efforts should focus on creating a stronger culture of safety in the cardiovascular operating room, increasing compliance with evidence-based infection control practices, improving communication and teamwork, and developing a partnership among all stakeholders to improve the design of tools and technologies.

  • Classification of hazards
  • safety
  • cardiac surgical procedures
  • operating rooms
  • human engineering
  • hand-off
  • human error
  • human factors
  • health services research
  • patient safety
  • checklists
  • communication
  • continuous quality improvement
  • adverse events
  • epidemiology and detection
  • anaesthesia
  • checklists
  • critical care
  • evidence-based medicine

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