Observational study of anaesthesia workflow to evaluate physical workspace design and layout

Katherina A. Jurewicz, David M. Neyens, Ken Catchpole, Anjali Joseph, Scott T. Reeves, James H. Abernathy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The safety and efficiency of anaesthesia care depend on the design of the physical workspace. However, little is known about the influence that workspace design has on the ability to perform complex operating theatre (OT) work. The aim of this study was to observe the relationship between task switching and physical layout, and then use the data collected to design and assess different anaesthesia workspace layouts. Methods: In this observational study, six videos of anaesthesia providers were analysed from a single centre in the United States. A task analysis of workflow during the maintenance phase of anaesthesia was performed by categorising tasks. The data supported evaluations of alternative workspace designs. Results: An anaesthesia provider's time was occupied primarily by three tasks: patient (mean: 30.0% of total maintenance duration), electronic medical record (26.6%), and visual display tasks (18.6%). The mean time between task switches was 6.39 s. With the current workspace layout, the anaesthesia provider was centred toward the patient for approximately half of the maintenance duration. Evaluating the alternative layout designs showed how equipment arrangements could improve task switching and increase the provider's focus towards the patient and visual displays. Conclusions: Our study showed that current operating theatre layouts do not fit work demands. We report a simple method that facilitates a quick layout design assessment and showed that the anaesthesia workspace can be improved to better suit workflow and patient care. Overall, this arrangement could reduce anaesthesia workload while improving task flow efficiency and potentially the safety of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-641
Number of pages9
JournalBritish journal of anaesthesia
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • anaesthesia
  • human factors
  • operating room
  • task analysis
  • task switching
  • workflow
  • workspace design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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