People in Minnesota who will soon be undergoing surgery have some good news to celebrate. According to the Baylor College of Medicine, the medical field has focused extensively on reducing surgical errors caused by poor communication and teamwork. Now, these errors have a much lower incidence rate, indicating that the performance improvement techniques have been successful.

In a study on surgical errors recently published in JAMA Network Open, a medical professional journal, researchers discovered that cognitive error accounted for over 51% of the performance deficiencies recorded during that study period.

Cognitive errors are mistakes people make in their thought processes, and in the operating room, these can involve a number of dangerous behaviors. The most common cognitive error in this study was lack of recognition, which, researchers explain, means that a patient’s highest risk may be that a surgeon will not recognize a potential problem or solution during the procedure.

Lack of attention and memory lapse were also common cognitive errors. Researchers recognize the need to eliminate all possible distractions in the operating rooms, and to find methods for physicians to refocus when their minds begin to drift.

Cognitive bias is another primary factor that resulted in negative surgical outcomes in the study. When doctors already have preconceived ideas about symptoms, they often make assumptions during the care planning stage that lead to diagnostic and treatment errors. Biases also frequently affect doctors’ problem-solving skills during surgery.

Communication problems, teamwork issues and rules violations had a much lower incidence in the study, accounting for about 20% of the performance errors.