Human-Computer Interaction Institute
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


Designing Information Hotspots for the Surgical Suite:
How Architecture, Artifacts, and People's Behavior
Converge to Support Coordination

Peter Scupelli

May 2009

Ph.D. Thesis


Keywords: Information hotspots, large displays, architecture, coordination, information artifacts, physical environment, collaborative work, large shared display, privacy, human-computer interaction, HCI, computer-supported cooperative work, CSCW, design guidelines, design principles, design strategies, design evaluation, fieldwork, survey, hierarchical regression, operating room, surgical suite, healthcare, clinical information systems, user interfaces.

Shared information displays are increasingly present in built environments. Terminal displays in airports show arrival and departure information, monitors in hotels and convention centers show room assignments, and whiteboards in hospitals show schedules and help staff know what others are doing. One of the most important types of displays is the schedule board for surgical suites. Surgical suites are a highly dynamic setting, where doctors, nurses, equipment, rooms, and patients must be perfectly coordinated. Schedule changes occur frequently and must be shared among staff. This research examines the design of hospital architecture (placement of walls, corridors, furnishings) and information artifacts for more effective information sharing and coordination of surgeries.

I conducted field studies in four hospital surgical suites and a survey of surgical suite directors nationwide. I describe factors of the architecture, and information available around surgical suite schedule displays that are associated with information sharing and coordination outcomes.

From the field studies, I developed the concept of an information hotspot – a place where people congregate to receive and provide information, public displays offer up-to-date information, and coordination workers answer questions, resolve conflicts, and keep information up-to-date. The information hotspot concept guided my design research. I developed design principles for the placement of schedule boards and control desks; design guidelines for the location of surgical suite displays and control desks; an evaluation list for surgical suites; and a three-tiered design intervention strategy ranging in implementation effort.

In a follow-up national survey of surgical suite directors, I studied linkages between surgical suite architecture, information artifacts and communication practices, workplace characteristics, information sharing, and coordination speed and stress. I found that visibility between the schedule board and control desk in the surgical suite, traffic-free areas around the schedule board, and complete, up-to-date schedule board information were related to information sharing and coordination outcomes.

211 pages

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