February 29, 2012

Surgical Time-Out, circa Year 2050

In the year 2050, surgical time-outs have reached a new level of safety to ensure the utmost care and risk reduction for patients.

Unlike the primitive time-outs performed in the the first decade of the 21st century (2000-2012) which involved one designated individual to confirm prior to incision (Basic9), the patient name, surgical site, performing surgeon, allergies, antibiotic administration, positioning, x-ray name confirmation, fire hazards, and fall risk, significant additional safety checklists have been implemented to create a new state-of-the-art culture of safety both in and out of the operating room.

In 2015, surgical time-outs extended to also include electrical and air quality checks (Environ2) along with separate mandatory time-outs of the Basic9 before, during, and at conclusion of surgery.  To ensure minimal air contaminants as well as maintain the highest performance of all electrical equipment in the operating room, the Environ2 requires a separate electrical and environmental engineer to certify all equipment and confirm air quality at a level of no more than one contaminant part per trillion to the 10th power in 35 separate locations within the operating theater. The Environ2 checks are double-confirmed by the circulating nurse who has been granted broad powers to cancel surgery for any reason without consequence if there are any concerns with the operating room environment that may increase infection risk for the patient as well as sub-optimal performance of any and all equipment used to perform the surgery.

In 2020, the Total5 was added to Basic9 and Environ2 which truly heralded the onset of state-of-the-art surgical time-outs. Total5, developed jointly by the Harvard School of Public Health and National Institute of Medicine, involves a comprehensive time-out of any and all individuals entering into the operating room in the knowledge that surgical outcomes are affected by personnel movement into and out of the operating room whether from contaminants on the skin or clothing of staff to infections that they may or may not be harboring. In rare cases, given the recent terrorist attacks both biological as well as chemical, the Total5 would additionally eliminate such threats.

As such, Total5 involves for each and every staff member that enters the operating room to undergo "individual time-outs":

1) Geiger counter check
2) Body pat-down by TSA (whose duties have tremendously expanded from initial airport security)
3) Metal detector check
4) Chemical check (specifically looking for arsenic, mercury, formaldehyde, etc as well as drug screen)
5) Biohazard check (routine organisms include MRSA, VRSA, C dif, HIV, hepatitis, etc as well as more exotic organisms like Ebola, Swine Flu, Anthrax, etc).

A separate consent must be in the chart for each and every individual who is present for the patient's surgery with their Total5 report.

The Basic9, Environ2, and Total5 surgical time-outs collectively have ensured a 360 degree safety net for the patient.

But... it is not until now in the year 2050 that the surgical time-out has reached a penultimate state with the expansion of the Total5 to Total10. In addition to the original Total5 for surgical staff, 5 additional time-out checks of surgical staff is now required. Continuing with #6...

6) Retina scan (to confirm staff identity)
7) Fingerprint scan (to double-check staff identity)
8) Malpractice insurance check (if positive, consent must be in chart to ensure patient was aware of any malpractice committed by any surgical personnel doctor or nurse)
9) EKG to ensure peak cardiac health of staff member
10) EEG to ensure a rested mind at peak performance of staff member

As with the Total5, Total10 report for each staff member must be included in the patient consent in the patient's chart.

There was some confusion whether each staff member can undergo just one Total10 per day, but with new regulation acknowledging possibility of patient infection contaminating personnel as well as staff member fatigue that may progress throughout the day, a Total10 MUST be performed before each and every surgical case.

For any further questions on surgical time-outs, please contact your local hospital JCAHO executive liaison.

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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