To optimize the functioning of an operating room the interactions of the staff (physicians and nurses) and other stakeholders (administrators) must be understood. Game theory provides a representation of the interactions that typically take place in the operating room environment. By understanding the types of games/interactions that occur the participants can better predict outcome and adapt their own behavior to optimize that outcome. Types of games seen in the operating room include fixed-sum, zero-sum, and non-zero-sum games. The Prisoner's Dilemma game and some of its variations are used to illustrate common interactions in the operating room. Examples of strategies for typical scenarios are discussed as well as ways to improve the outcome of the games. A better understanding of human behavior can improve the functioning of complex systems such as that found in the operating room.
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