Transformation of anesthesia for ambulatory orthopedic surgery: A mixed-methods study of a diffusion of innovation in healthcare

Kyle T. Leggott, Matthew Martin, David Sklar, Deborah Helitzer, Randy Rosett, Cameron Crandall, Firoz Vagh, Deana Mercer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Introduction To provide insight into how an innovation in healthcare is implemented and diffused, we studied the transition from routine use of general anesthesia to peripheral nerve blocks (PNBs) for ambulatory orthopedic extremity surgery. Rogers’ diffusion of innovations (DOI) theory was used as our theoretical framework. We identified themes that would be helpful for others attempting to diffuse innovations into healthcare settings. Material and methods A mixed quantitative and qualitative methodology was used. We retrospectively reviewed operative and anesthesia records of patients who underwent ambulatory repair of distal radius fractures or arthroscopic knee meniscus procedures from 1998 to 2012 to identify whether general anesthetics or PNBs were used and the time course of the innovation. We interviewed orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists, and a nursing administrator working in the ambulatory surgery unit during the innovation to identify key themes associated with the adoption of PNBs. Results From 2003 to 2012, use of PNBs increased from less than 10% to 70% of cases studied. The adoption timeframe followed an S-shaped curve. Key themes included improved safety, quality, efficiency, physician leadership and trust, organizational structure, and technological change. The innovation involved an optional decision-making process and took root in a satellite facility and generally fit with Rogers DOI theory. Conclusions The adoption and diffusion of PNBs provides a useful model for understanding innovations with optional decision-making in healthcare. Critical elements in our case were the characteristics of the innovation, which facilitated the decision-making process, and the positioning of the innovation in a peripheral structure away from core clinical facilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-187
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Diffusion of innovation
  • Healthcare innovation
  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Peripheral nerve block
  • Quality improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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