Sensor-based measurement can help boost healthcare teamwork

Sensor-based measurement holds the potential to shed light on ways to improve teamwork in healthcare, but a range of issues have to be worked out, according to a literature review published at the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Sensors can unobtrusively capture information about social networks, conversation patterns, physical activity, and other information, and be played back for study much like the data on airlines' cockpit voice recorders, according to the review's authors.

This information could be used to drive feedback and learning across individual, team, unit, and organizational levels. However, security and privacy concerns would have to be addressed, and organizations would have to build trust in the systems, or workers will find workarounds that make the data unusable, the authors say.

Yet, sensor-based measurement can be more practical than time- and labor-intensive methods such as observation and self-reporting.

It works best when teams are collocated, according to the review. As physical distribution increases, team members turn more to communication methods such as emails, pagers and texts, write the authors. A blended measurement approach will be required when teams are not entirely collocated or entirely distributed.

Sensor-based measures of teamwork can be applied to task efficiency, team learning, and outcomes such as staff satisfaction, according to the review. Task efficiency is the most straightforward, such as measuring reaction times to alerts and alarms. Assessing team learning can include evaluating changes in work patterns, and satisfaction and other affective outcomes can be analyzed through team interaction, the authors say.

Similarly, a study from the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans found that operating room simulations boosted teamwork among medical and nursing students.

And New York's Rochester General Hospital also is focusing on teamwork through an eight-week boot camp involving first-year internal medicine and pharmacy residents, nurse practitioner students and respiratory therapists. The boot camp aims to teach young healthcare professionals to work together even in high-stress situations.

To learn more:
- read the article's abstract