The effects of surgical robots on teamwork

Open surgery is a body sport: teams are huddled around the patient, squeezing into the limited space, sometimes hips and arms are touching. Instructions and requests are typically communicated non-verbally. In robotic surgery, the surgeon moves to a corner of the room, leaning into a console that provides live video feed from inside the patient’s body. The robot drastically changes the surgeon’s sensory perception: knowledge that was previously based on tactile sensations now has to be relearnt through vision. Interaction with the team is dramatically impaired: the surgeon literally loses touch and all communication has to be made explicit, often resulting in walkie-talkie style communication.

Building on my video recordings of robotic and open surgeries and ethnographic observations conducted over several years, we demonstrated how robots induce cognitive and affective distance, reconfigure the sensory environment and lead to new practices for negotiating common ground in surgical teams.

Results published at [CSCW 2018], [CSCW2019] and in my [Master Thesis].