The Importance of the Surgeon-Anesthesiologist Relationship for Patient Safety

By November 16, 2018Uncategorized

Today, medical care involves more than just one doctor: it involves a synergized team of doctors who come together to treat one patient. In order to achieve the highest quality patient care, there must be a significant amount of teamwork in the operating room. While much literature is focused on the relationship between an anesthesiologist and a patient, it is also imperative to examine the relationship between a surgeon and an anesthesiologist. Studies show that effective communication between surgeons and anesthesiologists can significantly improve patient outcomes and mitigate patient safety risks, leading to healthier relationships for all parties involved. An article published in Current Opinion in Anesthesiology names communication as the “most important tool in solving professional, legal and ethical questions.”[1] All parties who play a role in patient care must be able to interact in a responsible and professional manner that allows them to reach a consensus of actions based on their diverse medical expertise and experience. Collaboration can serve as a safeguard against dangerous, ethically ambiguous decisions made by individuals by creating an environment where courses of action must be discussed and agreed upon before they are taken. Active listening and clear expression of opinion are aspects of good communication. These are skills that must be practiced, as they are entirely different from the technical skills needed to treat patient illness and injury.

Strong relationships between surgeons and anesthesiologists extend beyond simple professional courtesy; quality relationships between doctors are essential to the health and safety of the patient. Dysfunctional relationships between care providers can lead to errors that can jeopardize the wellness of the patient. A paper published in The American Journal of Surgery found that communication failure among health care providers was a causal factor in 82% of adverse event or close-call reports.[2] Another study conducted by Sutcliffe et al. confirmed this finding, showing that 91% of reported errors could be attributed to a lack of proper communication.[3] It is vital for hospitals to commit to decreasing the prevalence of mistakes that lead to bad patient outcomes and low satisfaction. Preventing medical errors is among the highest priorities at every medical facility, especially when considering the importance of good operational outcomes as well as the ethics of providing exemplary care. Lowering the frequency of miscommunication can be achieved with the help of training programs.

Strengthening relationships between healthcare providers leads to a slew of benefits, the most important of these being increased patient safety. When surgeons and anesthesiologists have effectual relationships, we can expect faster turnaround at the health facility in addition to improved patient satisfaction. A recent study conducted by the University of Colorado Medical Center analyzed the impact of provider communication strategy on patient safety and found that “interventions and implementation methods become instrumental in preventing negative patient outcomes.”[4] Initiating a communication strategy for use by all health care team members at the Denver Health Medical Center led to decreased time needed for communication about patient concerns and increased patient issue resolution. When care is administered quickly and easily due to good, strong relationships, medical professionals can find more happiness and fulfillment in their work. This dynamic ultimately results in safer treatments and the increased likelihood that patients live longer, healthier lives.


Booij, Leo HDJ, and Evert van Leeuwen. “Teamwork and the legal and ethical responsibility of the anaesthetist.” Current Opinion in Anesthesiology2 (2008): 178-182.

Awad, Samir S., et al. “Bridging the communication gap in the operating room with medical team training.” The American Journal of Surgery5 (2005): 770-774.

Sutcliffe KM, Lewtorz E, Rosenthal MM, et al. Communication failures: an insidious contributor to medical mishaps. Acad Med 2004;79:186–94.

Dingley, Catherine, et al. “Improving patient safety through provider communication strategy enhancements.” (2008).