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Out-of-the-box thinking

Dr. Sylvain Boet using OR Black Box® technology

An innovative project that brings aviation expertise to the operating room engaged patients from start to finish to ensure success.

Just like on airplanes, The Ottawa Hospital now has a “black box” in a surgical operating room that records conversations, captures video, monitors patients’ vital signs and more. The research project, led by anesthesiologist Dr. Sylvain Boet, aims to determine how to make surgery safer and more efficient by understanding where errors occur.

The Ottawa Methods Centre, an OSSU research centre, worked closely with Dr. Boet’s team, providing expertise in patient engagement, recruitment, grant review support and more.

Laurie Proulx, a patient at The Ottawa Hospital, became involved in the OR Black Box® project while recovering from surgery in late 2017.

“I have been Involved from start to end,” says Laurie. “I was lucky because I was the first patient advisor recruited and was able to provide input into grant writing for SPOR funding to helping with implementation of the black box. It has been a positive experience from beginning to end.”

Imagine being a patient, nervous about surgery, who hears that your surgery may be recorded. How do you explain this to a patient? That’s where Laurie and the other patient partner in the project came in: they helped the research team determine the best way to explain the black box to surgical patients.

“The research team had done interviews with 15 surgical patients and coded results then presented the information to us,” explains Laurie. “They wanted to leverage the experience of a patient having surgery: you are nervous, what do you really want to know? We came up with key messages – short, simple materials such as your data is safe, this is the technology, your information is confidential, we will use the information to improve surgery, and there is always the option to opt out for both patients and staff.”

She also helped design an information pamphlet and poster forpatients, ensuring they were relatable and clear.

Lived experience matters

“We are lived experience experts and it’s that expertise that is important,” says Laurie.  “Researchers have experience but we do as well because we have lived medical experiences that have gone well and some not so well with errors. I hope to bring those positive and negative experiences to research.”

“Patient engagement can bring value for impact in the real world so that it is actually used. That’s what patient partners bring to the table.”

Laurie is no newcomer to surgery. Diagnosed with the juvenile form of rheumatoid arthritis at 14, she has had 8 surgeries at four hospital sites in Ottawa including

CHEO and The Ottawa Hospital campuses.

Ambassador role

Laurie is also an enthusiastic ambassador for both the project and patient engagement, creating a poster for the SPOR Summit last fall, presenting to researchers and advising patient advisors at The Ottawa Hospital about patient engagement. She also presented to an audience of surgeons at the Surgical Safety Network about the value of patient engagement, and how to do it.

Laurie’s tips for researchers

  • Engage patients as early as possible.
  • Team building is key. “I really felt like part of the team. We sat down in person, I was able to influence aspects of the project and my input helped. The research team kept me up-to-date which was important.”
  • “It’s a relationship and one that you build and keep building. It’s founded on being open to listen and engaging patient members of the team.”
Laurie Proulx, patient partner
Dr. Sylvain Boet using OR Black Box® technology
Photo credits: The Ottawa Hospital