Ask anyone today how they manage their grocery list and, chances are, they will show you an app that keeps it all organized. It makes you wonder why a task as important as managing an operating room is often run on paper-based processes or outdated software.
The OR scheduling process is all too often stuck in the past, running in a silo from the rest of the hospital or ASC systems and too reliant on single schedulers to carry the organizational burden. This leads to stressed and overworked surgeons in urgent need of a better way to communicate their complex surgical plans and timelines, while the scheduler has to organize a complicated interdependent list of resources needed for this very important task.
Fortunately, the new technology that powers today’s OR scheduling software can create operating room efficiency. And it’s not just accuracy and streamlined workflows that good OR scheduling software impacts—there are also real financial savings to be had. It may surprise you to learn that every year, surgeons leave about $500k on the table, partly because the scheduling process is laborious and error-prone. When there are too many variables to calculate costs accurately, resources can’t be shared efficiently, impacting the bottom line of any ASC or hospital.
With a number of OR scheduling solutions on the market, it can be hard to decide which ones will actually deliver value. We’ve done the work for you. Here’s a review of the necessary OR scheduling software features and functionality that are required to modernize surgical scheduling. These seven must-have features are markers of excellent surgery scheduling software.
Ease of use
Like any product, if surgery scheduling software is not easy to use, then schedulers and surgeons will spend a lot of time working out how to do things, with less time to get the work done. The surgery process is complex enough without having to learn to use a complicated piece of software. Your OR scheduling tool should be intuitive to use with dashboards that all team members can easily interpret. It should also be customizable to take into account the nuances of surgery scheduling. When a tool is designed by someone with experience in surgical scheduling or a surgeon who is intimately familiar with the process—not just a programmer— your satisfaction is likely to be much greater.
Look for software that runs on the cloud, also known as SaaS, or Software as a Service. Using a cloud-based tool reduces the need for having on-site technical knowledge or support. For example, with SaaS, you don’t need to worry about updating software or about keeping your data synchronized across different machines and sites. The best software tools also allow you to customize access to different stakeholders, reducing the chance of error. Running software in the cloud, rather than on premise, also means surgeons and schedulers can access data from anywhere on different devices.
One of the biggest challenges for OR schedulers is staying on top of communication. With so many stakeholders involved, timely and clear communication can easily involve oversights, like forgetting to notify everyone of last-minute room changes or supply requests. Automatic notifications take the leg work out of ensuring all the people involved in each surgery are up to date on essential information – and, importantly, this includes patients as well. Integrated, case-specific, context-aware communications bring enormous advantages for everyone involved, so this is one feature that is crucial. Transparent and timely communications are operating room scheduling best practices that you should expect your software solution to deliver.
Risk analysis is one area that can be excruciatingly difficult to manage manually. When evaluating OR scheduling software, try to find one that offers a decision support tool that can analyze patient and case-specific risk factors. This feature can make it easy to identify patients who can benefit from specialist pre-operative clearance, optimize cases at the highest risk for readmission and complications, and identify opportunities to proactively avoid patient satisfaction pitfalls. Having a tool that offers this advanced analysis relieves the often non-medically trained scheduler of a huge burden—one that can lead to burnout, employee turnover, errors, and a massive amount of stress. As we migrate from a fee-for-service model to one that rewards value-based, bundled payments, this feature gives surgeons and administrators a standardized method of screening for high-risk, potentially cost draining candidates, and affords opportunities for cost-saving interventions before surgery.
Having an integrated dashboard in your OR scheduling software allows for easy cross-practice collaboration—no sticky notes required. Without memos and scraps of paper to pass along information, the chance of error is reduced significantly. And an error is not something you have margin for, especially when it comes to something as important as the operating room schedule board. Look for a software solution with an intuitive dashboard that can track pending, scheduled, completed, held, and canceled surgical cases all in one easy-to-access place.
It may sound obvious, but having a surgical calendar is a must-have feature. Using Google calendar or Microsoft Outlook calendar can be a major HIPAA security vulnerability in your practice. Look for a HIPAA compliant calendar that is more than just a date keeper. More advanced software will feature a calendar with an intelligent operating room allocation tool that integrates institutional, surgeon, patient, and case-specific scheduling requirements. This capability enables you to make optimal case scheduling sequences. With collaborative calendars that you can share with your partner’s schedulers, your team can maximize operating room block time utilization and empower the appropriate decision makers to maximize your practice's surgical revenue generation potential.
Another non-negotiable feature is the ability to share knowledge within your organization. Just imagine the benefits of being able to share surgeon knowledge and requirements so anyone can schedule a case. This ability makes relying on one particular scheduler— who may have to be out unexpectedly—a thing of the past. It also unlocks collaboration among scheduling teams, and the ability for schedulers to help one another out. The best tools offer an intelligent repository that learns each individual surgeon’s case preferences so no one is dependent on a single scheduler again. Without the reliance on paper-based communication, preferences are clear and consistent, and there is no more guesswork, which means fewer billing errors and predictable, accountable care.
To find out more about how the right OR Scheduling software can improve operating room efficiency in your practice, contact us today and schedule a software demo.