Even though 51 million surgeries are performed in more than 10,000 hospitals and surgery centers across the United States every year, the Medical Group Management Association estimates that OR utilization is only at 55-60%. Given the significant expense of maintaining an OR (a minute of staffed time cab cost upwards of $50), and the revenue it provides (a minute of utilized time brings in an estimated $70+), anything less than 100% utilization leaves room for improvement.
Many of the issues that limit utilization are preventable, such as a stubborn surgeon refusing to release OR blocks they are not using to a new surgeon. Other issues include medical supply shortages that can reduce the efficiency of cases and lead to their cancellation. Effective operating room management requires working to prevent these problems.
With that in mind, we will review four tips to improve operating room efficiency and maximize utilization.
1. Optimize Block Scheduling
A high functioning operating room relies on scheduling. Many health centers use block scheduling to manage OR utilization, in which blocks are assigned to surgeons based on utilization trends. Scheduling is then left to the surgeons. Unfortunately, surgeons are sometimes reluctant to release blocks they are not using. Even if they are not reluctant, they may forget to do so.
Optimizing block scheduling requires surgeons to work with OR managers to release open blocks to other surgeons, and systems that identify these openings and prompt their release should be put in place.
2. Utilize the Latest Technology
While technology adoption is fast for a great deal of consumer technology, it continues to be slow in OR management. Using a technology-forward mindset can help OR managers consistently deliver quality services. For example, modern workflow management systems allow surgeons to set their preferences for OR set up, equipment and surgical steps. Ensuring that these are in place can create a better process that boosts utilization.
3. Streamline Preoperative Procedures
There are many preoperative steps that need to happen before any surgery can take place. One of the most important is cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments. OR managers can take a number of steps to streamline these processes. One option is to work with contract providers who have expertise and personnel who can manage the process.
4. Increase Transparency
Any and all changes in OR management should be proactively shared with concerned parties. At a macro level, this includes policy changes, such as a new approach to block scheduling. At a micro level, this includes sharing information before surgery takes place. For instance, surgeons need to be aware of equipment issues so they can either perform alternative procedures or reallocate OR time. Building strong communication channels minimizes the chances of unnecessary delays.
Downtime in the OR leads to delays that negatively affect patient satisfaction and increase a hospital’s costs, and should be avoided at all costs. There are many strategies OR managers can use to improve utilization closer to 100%. To summarize:
1. Optimize block scheduling
2. Utilize the latest technology
3. Increase transparency
4. Streamline preoperative procedures