8 Ways to Improve Operating Room Efficiency

Did you know that 35% of surgical candidates do not make it to the operating room as planned?  

While many barriers may prevent the surgery process from going smoothly, it is ultimately caused by operating room inefficiencies common to many hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs).  

The good news is that there are several ways hospitals and ASCs can learn how to improve operating room efficiency and scheduling. From minimizing operating room costs to creating an easier scheduling process to maintaining open communication with staff, discover these eight ways you can improve operating room efficiency.  

1. Minimize Operating Room Costs 

The cost of a single operating room is around $1,000 per hour, which can be problematic if there are any delays, cancellations, or mistakes in the surgery schedule, resulting in the inefficient use of operating rooms. 

Ideally, hospitals and ASCs would utilize as few operating rooms as possible in order to minimize costs. In part, this comes down to schedulers who have the understanding that even if an OR is available, it might be more efficient to schedule cases in preexisting underutilized operating rooms. In addition, hospitals and ASCs may also need to take additional precautions related to COVID-19, which may require a limited number of surgical cases to be scheduled each day to allow for ample time for proper disinfection protocols.  

Using a surgery scheduling platform, ASCs and hospitals can review their operating room schedule electronically to determine if every surgery has been scheduled correctly with the appropriate patient data points, surgeon, staff, time block, and equipment.  

2. Use a Digital Operating Room Schedule Board 

A traditional operating room schedule board can be challenging when making updates to surgical cases in real-time. Not only is it difficult for administrators to keep up with updates for multiple surgeries throughout the day, but it may also confuse surgeons and staff as they try to follow their daily schedules.  

With a digital operating room schedule board, an administrator or scheduler can easily update changes in one place with surgery scheduling software. This feature allows the information to update anywhere that the digital operating room schedule board is displayed in the hospital or ASC. This visibility will provide surgeons and staff with a clear view of the day’s schedule, allowing them to see vital information and foresee any potential issues that may prevent them from using operating rooms efficiently. 

3. Create an Easier Surgery Scheduling Process 

Before the day of surgery, OR efficiency may be an issue from the beginning of the process as some hospitals and ASCs still use antiquated surgery scheduling processes such as phone, email, fax, paper, or in-person.  

For an easier scheduling process, an automated surgery scheduling system can benefit patients, schedulers, and surgeons. It’s not only faster, but it allows hospitals and ASCs to see where there might be missing elements before the day of surgery, such as patient information, staff, equipment, or insufficient time blocks for the surgical case. By catching issues early, you can make the most efficient use of operating rooms. You should also follow OR scheduling best practices to determine if there are any areas of your surgery scheduling process that can be improved. 

4. Track Surgeon Utilization 

Since hospitals and ASCs often use block scheduling for surgical cases, potential inefficiencies can be found by tracking how well surgeons are utilizing their scheduled blocks. If a surgeon is not using all of their scheduled block times, schedulers or administrators can determine if the surgeon may take on additional surgical cases. On the other hand, surgeons may use all of their time blocks but run short on time for some surgical cases. This conflict may require an adjustment to the operating room schedule, ultimately leading to inefficiencies. Ideally, administrators and schedulers can track utilization through surgery software to determine how well surgeons are utilizing their time blocks.  

5. Avoid Equipment Issues 

Broken, missing, or simply unavailable equipment causes major issues for operating room efficiency, leading to delays or even cancellations the day of surgery. For example, if two operating rooms are scheduled for the same time that requires the same equipment, it’s likely that one surgery will have to be delayed or cancelled depending on patient, surgeon, and staff schedules.  

To prevent these issues, surgeons and staff should utilize a surgery management platform to document the necessary equipment for each surgical case as well as flag broken or missing equipment so that any issues can be handled in advance of the scheduled surgery. 

6. Prevent Delayed Start Times 

While the length of a surgery may be unknown, schedulers can plan by accounting for potential issues when scheduling surgical cases. Start time is of particular importance as a delayed surgery can impact cases throughout the rest of the day. To prevent start time issues, schedulers can utilize surgery scheduling software to ensure that the patient, surgeon, and staff are aware of the start time and that they are notified in advance to be early in order to prepare.  

Another consideration for schedulers is that a case may take more or less than the time scheduled in the operating room. To improve operating room efficiency and scheduling, the most predictable cases should be scheduled earlier, allowing more time for surgeries that may need more time. By doing so, administrators can more likely avoid time crunches. 

Despite some of the unknowns that can occur during surgery, delayed or even cancelled surgeries can be minimized by using surgery scheduling software to keep the operating room start times clear and ensure they are communicated with surgeons, staff, and patients.   

7. Maintain Open Communication with Staff 

As much as technology changes how to improve operating room efficiency, nothing can replace the impact of open communication amongst your staff. Whether you hold weekly team meetings to share vital information about any issues that arise or ask for staff to document and communicate problems within your surgery scheduling platform, it’s important that any feedback is turned into action. By simply meeting to voice concerns, issues, and ideas, your team can make changes to daily processes that will improve operating room efficiency.  

8. Ensure That Patients Are Prepared for Surgery 

Last but not least, ensuring that patients are prepared for surgery is an essential step in improving operating room efficiency. While your hospital or ASC can manage everything from operating room schedules to equipment to staff, if a patient is unprepared, this may derail even the best-laid plans.  

A surgery scheduling platform can indicate if there are missing elements before the day of surgery. Verify that any lab work has been completed, all necessary patient information added to the system, and make sure that the patient has been notified of anything they might need to do before surgery as well as surgery start time and when they should arrive. Communicating with the patient ahead of time, whether it’s through a surgery scheduling platform or a simple phone call, can prevent delays and cancellations,  

How to Improve Operating Room Efficiency with CaseCTRL 

Every hospital or ASC struggles with different operating room inefficiencies, but by tackling problems using some of these recommendations, you can work toward decreasing delayed or cancelled surgeries. And remember that statistic at the beginning? Coupled with surgery scheduling software, schedulers, administrators, surgeons, and staff can work together to lower that statistic and improve operating room efficiency one case at a time.  

Contact CaseCTRL to learn more about how our platform can help your hospital or ASC with operating room efficiency.  

Download the eBook: How to Improve Your Surgery Scheduling Process: A Comprehensive Guide

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