A Quest for the Structure of Intra- and Postoperative Surgical Team Networks: Does the Small World Property Evolve over Time?

Ashkan Ebadi, Patrick J. Tighe, Lei Zheng, Parisa Rashidi

We examined the structure of intra- and postoperative case-collaboration networks among the surgical service providers in a quaternary-care academic medical center, using retrospective electronic medical record (EMR) data. We also analyzed the evolution of the network properties over time, as changes in nodes and edges can affect the network structure. We used de-identified intra- and postoperative data for adult patients, ages >= 21, who received nonambulatory/nonobstetric surgery at Shands at the University of Florida between June 1, 2011 and November 1, 2014. The intraoperative segment contained 30,245 surgical cases, and the postoperative segment considered 30,202 hospitalizations. Our results confirmed the existence of strict small world structure in both intra- and postoperative surgical team networks. A sudden declining trend is expected in the future in both intra- and postoperative networks, since the small world property is currently at its peak. In addition, high network density was observed in the intraoperative segment and partially in postoperative one, representing the existence of cohesive clusters of providers. We also observed that the small world property is exhibited more in the intraoperative compared to the postoperative network. Analyzing the temporal aspects of the networks revealed the postoperative segment tends to lose its cohesiveness as the time passes. Our results highlight the importance of stability of personnel in key positions. This highlights the important role of the central players in the network that offers change-leaders the opportunity to quantify and target those nodes as mediators of process change.

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