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C3 – Greening the OR? Behavioral Science to the Rescue

Meeting Rooms

Getting started with greening the operating room can be a daunting task. Front-line clinicians in the fast-paced, high-intensity operating room (OR) environment face many challenges. Engaging clinicians in green practices and encouraging sustainable culture change is a process that requires thoughtful, ongoing efforts. Many change endeavors fail, and lead to employee dissatisfaction, inefficiencies, or issues in quality or safety.

Where do providers get started? What evidence and strategies can they use to engage various stakeholders and leadership? How can they create an environment of continuous improvement, and ensure the impact of their efforts will last?

At any point in time our brains are trying to process an enormous amount of information. This is especially true for the fast-paced, complex OR environment. It is often the organization of information that plays the important role in decision making. Choice architecture says that we are influenced by how choices are presented to us. This influence is unavoidable; even small, seemingly insignificant details can have major impacts on people’s health, wellness, and sustainability outcomes over time. Clinicians working to green the OR can realize their influential power as choice architects, and play a key role in creating healthy, sustainable culture change.

Behavioral economists say if you want to encourage something, make it easy. For example, some institutions have removed desflurane from anesthesia carts; if providers want to use this agent, which has a higher global warming potential than sevoflurane and isoflurane, it has to be retrieved from the supply room. The choice is still available, but it’s easier to make the more environmentally friendly selection.

In this session, we will explore how to leverage convenience, aesthetics, action triggers, feedback loops, and more to influence sustainable behaviors. Understanding human decision making and mental heuristics is key, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to engaging people in sustainable change. Understanding the people you’re trying to engage, and including them in the process will not only improve outcomes but also increase ownership, improve collaboration, and build resiliency through social capital.

Across the US, sustainability is a polarizing subject, but research from Stanford sociologists suggests that with moral reframing, we might not be as polarized as we seem. The way we deliver our message matters just as much as the message itself. By understanding what matters most to our colleagues and speaking to them about sustainability in terms of their values versus our own, we might be more successful in our engagement efforts. We are also heavily influenced by the actions of those around us; clinicians who effectively set social norms around sustainability will likely see the most sustainable, long term results in greening the OR.

This dynamic presentation will engage the audience in a brief empathy exercise, followed by a line of questioning that allows them to experience the reality of mental heuristics and behavior science insights. A live discussion will then be moderated about how to address common barriers along the way, highlighting examples of successes and lessons learned. Attendees will leave with practical tools and tips to get their own green OR initiative up and running, and to keep the momentum of their efforts rolling.

Clinical advocacy Greening the OR