Can time-out procedures minimize the chance of surgical errors?

Surgery is scary. After all, you have to totally trust your medical team — and your surgeon — not to make any mistakes while you’re under the knife, and mistakes in the operating room are far too common.

Recent research has shown that doctors’ performance of time-out procedures may be key to improved surgical outcomes for patients. They may be particularly effective in helping doctors avoid the rare wrong site, procedure and patient errors that occur. 

What does a surgical time-out procedure entail?

A time-out procedure involves a medical team coming together before performing surgery on a patient to go over the plan of action. They may re-confirm the patient’s identity and the procedure they will be undergoing. The lead surgeon may go over any support they anticipate needing and any assigned roles team members have. 

Researchers suggest that time-out procedures can be effective in minimizing errors. They find that doctors often fail to perform them or hastily run through them, though. The researchers also note that the wrong person spearheads these time-outs or occurs when not everyone on the surgical team is present. These factors result in more errors than what should otherwise occur. 

Surgical errors are preventable

One of the most common reasons for adverse medical outcomes is a lack of communication. This can happen when doctors don’t ask the right questions to hone in on a patient’s diagnosis. It can also occur when one doctor working on a case with another fails to ask the right questions necessary to provide an adequate continuation of care. Poor communication can also result in a surgical team member not doing what they need to, resulting in a patient’s adverse outcome. 

Indiana law may allow you to hold a negligent physician, medical team member or facility liable for their actions. An attorney can help you learn more.