Surgical models are changing, with the increasing reliance on technology, from 3D imaging to robotics, enabling extraordinary innovation and life changing intervention. However, while staff are embracing new skills and ways to successfully interact with the technology, the changing environment creates new stresses.
Collaboration between multi-disciplinary teams is essential but eye contact is often not an option when individuals are reviewing imaging, even working in separate cath labs. Add in the background noise from equipment and colleagues, and vital communication can be compromised. The adoption of wireless headset technology is transforming the clinician experience – and improving patient outcomes. Combining broadcast quality communication with noise cancelling headsets ensures intelligibility, facilitating a calmer, less stressful working environment and enabling the effective staff training which is an essential component of new technology adoption.
Tom Downes, CEO, Quail Digital, explains the importance of immediacy and clarity in OR communication.
Over recent years, with the introduction of multi-disciplinary structural and specialist valve clinics, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of interventional procedures carried out for structural heart disease. The use of 3D imaging technology and electrophysiology (EP) have not only changed patient accessibility to surgery; they have transformed the entire process.
With multiple team members collaborating not only over several hours but often across multiple rooms, excellent, unambiguous communication has become essential. From surgeons, healthcare professionals and trainees within the OR to technicians and radiology technologists in cath labs, everyone needs complete confidence in the ability to hear and share critical information.
Yet ORs are far from quiet places. Equipment, technology and air conditioning can create a significant noise level; while those undertaking image and test reviews may be distracted by the noise of other HCPs. When staff need to be 100% confident about the information received and shared, this background noise is a very real concern. Furthermore, with the increasingly multi-national expertise being sought to maximise the use of innovative technology, miscommunication is a very real concern. Given the risk of legal action should an instruction be misheard, excellent communication has become a priority.
In this highly charged environment, the traditional reliance on speakers and microphones, even bulky headsets, is inadequate. A normal microphone will pick up all the noise in the room and often cannot be optimally positioned for sound. Not only is the sound unclear but the actual experience can be disturbing because extraneous noise is amplified. In addition to raising the risk of instructions being misheard by clinicians, it is important to consider the experience of patients who are often conscious during these procedures. Having every interaction broadcast over the OR speaker is unlikely to provide the calm environment required to maximise patient well-being.
For any procedure that requires two or more people who are not in eye contact, a wireless headset is ideal. Unlike traditional headsets which can be cumbersome and heavy, lightweight wireless solutions are easy to wear, enabling hands free communication throughout any procedure. Sound is at near broadcast quality, ensuring the essential clarity of communication and intelligibility; while headsets also include noise cancelling technology to ensure there are no external distractions.
Furthermore, with a simple base station registration process, staff can move between locations with the same headset. Essentially, whatever the HCP’s role, from surgeon to imaging or operating robotic equipment, the entire multi-disciplinary team can communicate with confidence.
The issue is not just patient wellbeing – although that is clearly key. It is also clinician wellbeing. There is growing evidence that noise can have a very detrimental impact on an individual’s performance and wellbeing, from a lack of concentration to stress. Prolonged exposure to noise can cause spikes in blood pressure and heart rate; and research has shown that even intermittent exposure to loud noises can lead to higher long term stress hormone levels and hypertension.
Within an office environment, research suggests workers can be up to 66% less productive when exposed to just one nearby conversation; within a high pressure environment such as an OR, the implications of such noise related stress are even more significant. With falling nursing and HCP numbers and nearly a third of registrants leaving the profession saying that too much pressure leading to stress was their main reason for discontinuing their registration, it is essential to grasp any opportunity to minimise this.
In addition to improving the intelligibility of communication and minimising extraneous noise, the use of wireless headsets also enables the entire surgical team – many of whom are undertaking duties outside the OR – to remain 100% engaged in the process while still undertaking other tasks. Juggling multiple tasks without a clear timeline can be hugely stressful – but with the entire team continuously linked through one channel via the wireless headset anyone not required throughout the entire process is able to maximise their time with confidence, knowing they will be fully informed and ready when required.
Improved intelligibility also plays a critical role in supporting training and education. With the rise in robotic surgery – from nanobots to unclog arteries to catheter based robots, robot based valves and improved holographic 3D vision – as well as AI and digital health, clinicians are continually learning. In addition to adopting new technology, clinicians are also adapting to the change in patient complexity. Robots can now perform complex procedures with geometrical precision, even in anatomical areas that are difficult to reach by surgeons – opening the door to procedures even on the most complex, multi-risk patients.
In this evolving healthcare environment, it is vital that medical education keeps pace with innovation, particularly when technological advances evolve faster than curriculum development. The use of the latest generation of wireless headsets allows the surgeon to extend the OR into the field of medical education, describing these increasingly complex processes in detail as they are undertaken. Improved intelligibility over traditional methods now ensures that trainees can hear exactly what has been said and able to question immediately if additional clarification is required. With health innovation in the 21st century having a particular emphasis on digital health, the ability for trainees to learn in the field is key.
The adoption of innovative technology including robotics within the OR is exciting, opening the door to previously impossible treatments, especially for patients with complex, chronic conditions. But it also increases the importance of excellent OR communication. With growing numbers of invasive surgeries, including gastroenterology, increasingly including 3D imaging as well as cameras, excellent communication between multi-discipinary teams has become a fundamental component of the successful surgical process. Moreover, it can help ensure the doctors of tomorrow train in an environment that is a clear representation of the working world they will enter.
The intelligibility enabled by wireless headset technology is fast becoming a priority to ensure both today and tomorrow’s clinician and patient well-being.