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Technol Health Care. 2009;17(2):149-57. doi: 10.3233/THC-2009-0540.

Direct cellular vs. indirect pager communication during orthopaedic surgical procedures: a prospective study.

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Sonoran Orthopaedic Trauma Surgeons, Scottsdale Healthcare, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, USA.



Cellular phone use within the hospital setting has increased as physicians, nurses, and ancillary staff incorporate wireless technologies in improving efficiencies, cost, and maintaining patient safety and high quality healthcare [11]. Through the use of wireless, cellular communication, an overall improvement in communication accuracy and efficiency between intraoperative orthopaedic surgeons and floor nurses may be achieved.


Both communication types occurred while the surgeon was scrubbed in the operating room (OR). Indirect communication occurred when the pager call was answered by the OR circulating nurse with communication between the surgeon, circulating nurse, and floor nurse. Direct communication consisted of cell phone and Jabra Bluetooth BT200 wireless ear piece used by the surgeon. The surgeon answered the floor nurse's cellular call by phone ring-activated automatic answering. The study was conducted during scheduled orthopaedic procedures. An independent observer measured time variables with a stop-watch while orthopaedic nurses randomly called via pager or cell phone. The nurses asked for patient caregiver confirmation and answers to 30 different patient-care questions.


Sixty trials were performed with 30 cell and 30 page communications. Direct cellular communication showed a better response rate than indirect page (Cell 100%, Page 73%). Indirect page communication allowed a 27% and 33% error rate with patient problem and surgeon solution communications, respectively. There were no reported communication errors while using direct wireless, cellular communication. When compared to page communications, cellular communications showed statistically significant improvements in mean time intervals in response time (Cell = 11s, Page = 211s), correct patient identification (Cell = 5s, Page = 172s), patient problem and solution time (Cell = 13s, Page = 189s), and total communication time (Cell = 32s, Page = 250s) (s = seconds, all P < 0.001). Floor nurse satisfaction ratings (dependent on communication times and/or difficulties) were improved with direct cellular communication (Cell = 29 excellent, Page = 11 excellent). Intraoperative case interruptions (defined as delaying surgical progress) were more frequent with indirect page communication (10 page v. 0 cell).


Our study demonstrates that direct wireless communication may be used to improve intraoperative communication and enhance patient safety. Direct wireless, cellular intraoperative communication improves communication times, communication accuracy, communication satisfaction, and minimizes intraoperative case interruption. As a result of this study, we hope to maintain our transition to direct wireless, cellular intraoperative orthopaedic communication to reduce medical errors, improve patient care, and enhance both orthopaedic surgeon and nursing efficiencies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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