HIT Think

Why improving OR efficiency must address 3 issues with technology

Register now

Operating rooms are typically the largest revenue-generating areas within a hospital. And because they are resource-intensive, they are also one of the highest cost centers. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that OR efficiency plays a key role in a hospital’s financial performance.

Consider, for example, the cost of an OR minute. A Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study cites that OR time costs an average of $36 to $37 per minute in California. Given these numbers, it’s easy to see just how quickly costs can add up when an OR is left sitting idle.

As hospitals look for ways to save money, maximizing OR time by reducing delays and last-minute cancellations is an obvious place to start.

Scheduling errors and miscommunication are key contributors to OR delays and cancellations. In an attempt to remedy these issues, many hospitals are turning to patient engagement technology. From automated pre-op reminders to personalized texts offering detailed instructions leading up to (and following) a procedure, patient engagement technology helps eliminate day-of surgery surprises and confusion.

While this is certainly a step in the right direction, other seemingly obvious resources critical for a case to happen—physician offices, surgeons, anesthesiologists and ancillary teams (for example, medical reps, radiology, pathology and the like)—continue to be overlooked.

There are many intricate details and people required to coordinate a surgery. Yet despite advances in technology, cases continue to be scheduled and coordinated in a jumbled, disconnected fashion. When miscommunication happens, OR delays and cancellations are quick to follow.

Below are three common reasons case communication issues continue to exist, and how hospitals can fix them.

Surgery coordination is siloed. In most hospital environments, key stakeholders (schedulers, surgeons, anesthesiologists, medical reps and others) work in their own system, with their own scheduling software. There is an assumption that everyone involved in a case is in sync simply because updates are sent through a fragmented chain of emails, faxes, phone calls and text messages. Yet this perceived reality of accord couldn’t be further from the truth.

A surgery coordination hub is essential to ensure everyone necessary for a surgery is looking at the same information. Cloud-based systems offer real-time access to schedules and all case-related information so everyone is continually on the same page. Breaking down silos by providing complete case communication to those who need it and a holistic view of the case at each step of the way is essential to keeping OR cases on track.

Mobile access to case information is limited. Surgeons, anesthesiologists and medical reps are highly mobile. Whether outside of a hospital environment or within different hospital settings (such as pre-op, recovery, intensive care and more), they need a way to stay connected when access to a traditional computer is not possible. Tablets, iPhones and Androids devices enable these mobile healthcare professionals to check schedules, look up or share lab results, get context on a patient, and more, regardless of location. Unfortunately, not all of the information they access is current.

Accessing a hospital’s surgical communication hub via a HIPAA-compliant mobile app ensures the information surgeons, anesthesiologists, medical reps and others look at and share is current. With instant access to real-time, case-related information and schedules, everyone is on the same page and there are no surprises. Furthermore, if there is a cancellation or delay case members are proactively alerted whereas before they were left to rely on schedulers to update them.

Documents are frequently lost. Missing or outdated documentation also cause delays and cancelations. Despite the increase in EMRs, documentation issues remain a common problem for many hospitals because of the siloed nature of healthcare. EHR access is typically limited to hospital employees. As a result, documents are sent to surgeons, anesthesiologists and medical reps through multiple methods of communication, such as fax and email, with the assumption it is received.

Housing all case-related documents in one central location that is connected to a hospital’s EHR system, yet accessible to everyone involved in a case, greatly reduces the likelihood of lost or outdated data. Secure, HIPAA compliant access to this information from a mobile devices ensures everyone is on the same page.

Hospitals in pursuit of increased efficiency and reduced costs have a clear path to follow. Successful ORs operate more efficiently when connecting all areas and resources of surgery coordination via cloud technology. Fewer delays and cancellations increase operating margins and contribute to a hospitals’ financial health and success.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.