New Communication: Updates From the OR

Apr 20, 2020 11:00:00 AM / by Joy Youell

Whether it’s an emergency or scheduled surgery, when a loved one is taken back to the OR, anxiety sets in. Surgeries can take a long time. As you wait, that anxiety can build. The scratchy, hard-backed chairs, HGTV blaring on big (ish) screen. Not even Chip and Joanna can make you feel better right now. This is a familiar scenario for anyone who has ever waited while someone was in surgery.

Everytime the door swings open, you jump and hold your breath to hear an update. There aren’t many. This lack of communication can add stress to an already difficult day. What if there was a better way? Operating room apps may be that bright light at the end of a waiting room tunnel.

Operating Room Apps

What if… were notified every hour? knew how far along the surgery was? knew an estimate of how much longer it may take?

These are examples of some of the things operating room apps are attempting to achieve. A study from 2017 followed doctors at the Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. Providers there developed an app that would give real-time updates to waiting parents. Follow-up surveys showed a 98% reduction in anxiety for families who received this information.

A similar program at the Memorial Medical Center in Illinois implemented app-based, secure communication between surgery staff and families. They found unprecedented improvements in family satisfaction. Families chose who was included in the messaging, many adding up to four people to the thread. More than 90% of participants felt more connected throughout surgery.

DocClocker is a patient wait time app that also has an OR communication feature. Included among its other services, DOC-OR creates regular updates from the operating room that families can receive through the app. The benefit of a third-party app is that it is not limited to a single facility or even a network of facilities. Any hospital in any state can register for and then use the service.

Operating Room News

Countless studies have proven that doctor-patient communication is a key to success. For instance, one report of orthopedic surgeons found that 75% of the providers thought they had adequate to excellent communication, while only 21% of their patients felt the same way. Bridging this gap between physician communication and patient satisfaction may be achieved through digital platforms.

Nearly a decade ago, when apps were just entering the OR, they were used to help communicate details about upcoming surgeries to patients. During surgery, apps helped in preparation and even allowed surgeons to share images. They were also initially used for data and record keeping.

Fast forward, apps are everywhere. They continue to be helpful tools for communication, but not necessarily in the educational way for which they were originally imagined. Wi-fi everywhere has enabled app users to have real-time interactions and experiences. It could even be said that the average patient today doesn’t just appreciate timely communication: they expect it.

Now, operating room apps can help in a wide variety of ways both on and off of the surgery stage:

  • Apps help nurses set up operating rooms
  • Apps are more reliable and easier than calling or updating families
  • Apps can organize work flow before, during and after surgery
  • Apps can guide surgeons in the best methods and approaches by interpreting big data and patient-specific data
  • Apps can help patients track preoperative and postoperative medication, therapies and appointments

There are apps that help evaluate surgical residents. One platform, called CTSNet, allows surgeons to make videos they can share with their colleagues around the world. Apps can increase productivity, improve efficiency and enhance knowledge. At the end of the day, for families who are waiting, the best kind of app is the one that tells you that everything is okay.

Operating Room Communication

OR doctors are highly specialized medical professionals. The average surgeon in the U.S. already utilizes a significant amount of tech in their work. Operating room technology continues to improve, as does the communication around it. Operating room apps may be one way of improving messaging and maintaining trust between doctors and families.


De La Roza, Kevin J. and Hamish M. Munro. “Improving Communication from the Operating Room: A New Mobile Application to Enhance the Family Experience.” NEJM Catalyst, July 13, 2017. Accessed January 15, 2020.

Fong, Jennifer Ha, Dip Surg Anat and Nancy Longnecker. “Doctor-Patient Communication: A Review.” The Ochsner Journal, 2010. Accessed January 15, 2020.

OR Manager. “Secure apps loop in families during surgery.”, July 19, 2016. Accessed January 15, 2020.

Warnock, Garth L. “The use of apps in surgery.” Canadian Journal of Surgery, April 2012. Accessed January 15, 2020.

Tags: DocClocker, Patient app, Digital healthcare, Healthcare news, Medical health, Healthcare app, Medical app, Apps for doctor visits, Digital medical, doctor patient relationship, patient communication, Healthcare trends

Joy Youell

Written by Joy Youell

Joy Youell writes about IT healthcare, digital medical innovations and improving patient experiences for DocClocker.