• Healthcare Delivery

    Optimizing operating room design to support teams and strengthen healthcare delivery

A recent Mayo Clinic study used a mixed methods approach to investigate how operating room (OR) design can support and strengthen the well-being of surgical teams during healthcare delivery. The study analyzed patient flow, room organization and the needs of surgical teams to optimize OR design for functional efficiency and to improve overall mental health.

Image of Renaldo Blocker, Ph.D., senior author of the study.
Renaldo Blocker, Ph.D., senior author of the study.

"We want to ultimately understand how we can be proactive in designing spaces that are conducive to resilient performance and supportive of the team’s well-being, especially during extenuating or catastrophic events, so that teams can effectively adopt and continue to perform at their maximum level," says Renaldo Blocker, Ph.D., a human factors engineering researcher and senior author of the study.

Dr. Blocker is the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Honored Investigator and leads a research team on cognitive engineering/neuroergonomics within the Mayo Clinic Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.                                                                                                                

Researchers conducted five focus groups with surgeons, anesthesia providers and allied health staff from three ORs at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. The groups took surveys and performed functional scenario analysis, which involves analyzing real-world scenarios to assess how surgical teams interact with their environment. As part of the discussions, they looked at 3D models of the existing operating rooms.

The survey asked whether the layout of the entire OR area is conducive to the team's sense of well-being and which elements can cause environmental stress.

The top-selected options in the survey were noisy environments, disorganized patient flow, poor lighting and poor room organization, along with a lack of appropriate facilities, medical equipment and support staff.

Researchers note that the focus groups provided a lens into the team's daily experiences and challenges within the operating room, revealing that disorganized patient flow was a key stressor.

They added that design improvements to ensure smooth patient transport, including wider doorways and corridors, would allow for easier maneuvering of patient beds.

The focus groups also revealed that seemingly small details, such as the distance to break rooms and lockers, can significantly affect how surgeons, nurses and other staff feel during a critical shift.

"The beauty of this study is that because we integrated 3D space capture of the OR into the focus group, this jogged participants' memory and they could directly compare layouts and suggest design improvements," says Dr. Blocker.

Researchers discovered that all three operating rooms could be improved by placing equipment and supplies closer to key areas like patient prep and recovery, and by enhancing natural light as well as device screen visibility.

They underscore that by focusing on patient flow, room organization, and the needs of surgical teams, healthcare organizations can create operating rooms that reduce staff burnout and ultimately lead to a more positive work environment and improved patient outcomes.

"We want our methodology to be agile, where we can capture data, conduct analysis and provide impactful and insightful design recommendations swiftly," says Dr. Blocker. "We want to reduce the notion that this type of design research will take forever; our methodology can be done concisely with a relatively quick turnaround."

This study was the result of a collaboration between the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, and the Facilities and Support Services Department, as well as experts from several other U.S. and international organizations. Review the study for a complete list of authors, disclosures and funding. 

About Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery

The Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery collaborates with clinical areas across Mayo to create and evaluate data-driven solutions to transform the experience of health and healthcare for patients, staff, and communities. It drives continuous improvement of Mayo Clinic as a learning health system, enabling always safe, evidence-based, high-quality care.