Anyone who works in an ambulatory surgery center is familiar with how challenging and frustrating the process of scheduling surgery can be. Often, the surgical scheduling process relies heavily on the hard work of lone surgical schedulers. Much of the information is siloed as it’s held by only one person. Plus, the general reliance on paper or email forms makes it much harder to communicate complex surgical plans, timelines, and resource needs in busy healthcare facilities. For more insights on the ideal time to use surgical scheduling software, and tips to ensure the best ROI, check out this guide.
As a result, details can be mishandled and information overlooked, resulting in additional, avoidable work by the scheduler – and sometimes also by the surgeon. As well as increased inefficiency, the issues caused by paper-based, old-fashioned surgery scheduling can result in cancellation and delays of surgery, unused block time, dissatisfied patients, and overall case mismanagement. In fact, scheduling issues could well cause a patient to seek surgical care with another provider, resulting in lost revenue and possible damage to the ASCs reputation. For more content on strategies that improve the efficiency of ASC and practice operations, download our eBook.
In this blog, we’ll break down the four most common issues in surgery scheduling and explain how ASCs and other healthcare facilities can solve them.
1. Lack of clear accountability
In many healthcare facilities, the reliance on paper forms or emails for surgery scheduling means that it is unclear where overall responsibility for case management lies. Busy and overworked staff may pass on messages or make edits to surgery schedules or information that is not received by every stakeholder involved in the surgery.
How to fix it:
It’s time to switch from a paper-based system to an automated scheduling software that allows you to control the flow of information about every case from end to end. For instance, with CaseCTRL, you can get complete oversight of all case posting edits and interactions and know exactly who made each change. You’ll also be able to keep an inventory of exchanged messages on a shared status board, making it easier to track the accountability of all individuals involved in the scheduling process.
2. Legibility issues with paper-based scheduling forms
Handwritten notes can easily result in transcription errors. The resulting errors not only cause frustration and potential delays to surgeries, but they can also impact negatively on patient care. Tracking down the source of errors also generates an increased workload for the scheduler, who will have to identify and resolve the error.
How to fix it:
Again, automation is the answer. By automating notifications and communications to all stakeholders, you can dramatically reduce the possibility of human error when it comes to scheduling surgery. Additionally, with an intelligent posting system using tools like the ones built into CaseCTRL, you can wipe out the risk of transcription errors and also the potential for lost posting sheets.
3. Incomplete forms or missing information
Countless surgeries have been delayed or even cancelled due to incomplete forms, missing patient information, and other mishandled details. These seemingly minor errors can result in serious case mismanagement, as well as significantly reducing the efficiency and profitability of the operating room.
In some cases, the errors creep into the case documentation because not all stakeholders have the same information available. For instance, surgeons may be aware of the limitations of a particular surgery location, but that information may not have been passed on to the scheduler in time.
These challenges are not unique to paper-based scheduling forms either. Most electronic medical record systems integrate surgical order forms. Unfortunately, filling these static and long digital forms are just as tedious as the paper ones, and for many surgeons, sometimes even more onerous and cumbersome to fill. Inevitably, overwhelmed schedulers often tasked with filling these EMR entries on the surgeon’s behalf, fill the bare minimum to get the case on the books. The end result is incomplete case information.
Compounding the problem, once a surgery has had to be rescheduled because of missing information, the scheduler will need to contact all parties by phone to notify them of the change. As well as creating more work for the already busy scheduler, there is a risk that not all parties will receive the update, causing further potential delays.
How to fix it:
A surgery scheduling software allows you to immediately transmit auto-generated posting information to all involved facilities when cases are scheduled or rescheduled. In other words, no more case delays or cancellations due to incomplete or missing patient information.
CaseCTRL predicts what a surgeon will need based on a surgeon’s historical scheduling data and the scheduling patterns of peers performing the same surgery, making it effortless for a surgeon to provide complete details for a specific surgery. CaseCTRL also allows you to set up surgeon-based rules so that anyone can account for a surgeon's preferences or specific limitations in a given OR, ensuring surgeries are always scheduled in locations with the appropriate resources and equipment.
Finally, to keep all postings as accurate and complete as possible, you need a platform that provides you with case posting templates that can be effortlessly edited and customized for each case and patient, ensuring a full and correct posting every time.
4. Too much reliance and burden on schedulers
For many ASCs, the surgery scheduler is heavily relied on, and their unexpected absence (for instance, due to illness) can cause the whole OR to grind to a halt. Meanwhile, the scheduler is juggling a mammoth workload, keeping every stakeholder up to date, ensuring the patient receives the best possible experience and care, playing phone tag with busy surgical staff, and completing multiple tasks by hand.
How to fix it:
By switching to a web-based system, the scheduler can access electronic posting sheets remotely and completely securely. That way, even if the scheduler can’t come into work – in the event of quarantine, for example – the practice is still able to maintain the continuity of patient care.
To address the problem of a scheduler’s unforeseen absence, try using simplified, audited, and catalogued electronic posting sheets. These will allow the surgical team to collaborate on a case schedule even if the scheduler is absent.
Using the scheduler’s time more efficiently can also be hugely beneficial for the overall productivity of the operating room. For starters, when you introduce a surgery scheduling software, you instantly reduce the number of manual, redundant tasks the scheduler has to handle, meaning that case scheduling can become far more efficient. This efficiency, in turn, will mean that scheduling is no longer a limiting factor, enabling the practice to potentially handle more surgeries. Automating the communication of all updates and notifications will reduce the work involved in the coordination of each case by at least 50%.
Healthcare facilities that use automated surgery scheduling software benefit from the ability to customize each case posting, collaborate and share information quickly and easily, and handle unexpected changes seamlessly with real-time communication updates. If you’d like to know more about how CaseCTRL could help save your hospital or ASC time and money, schedule a demo today.