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Operating room utilization improved with surgical scheduling software

Powering operating room utilization with data: an academic hospital’s journey, outcomes, and ROI

Alyssa Arrese, MHA

Senior Product Implementation Manager, iQueue for Operating Rooms

One of 11 hospitals in a major academic health system in the Midwest, a nationally ranked urban medical center struggled to improve operating room utilization as it scheduled and performed its annual 38,000 surgical procedures. The large footprint of the health system, with 894 licensed beds, 60 operating rooms (ORs), and allotment of 300 surgical blocks per week, means operations are always complex throughout the system. But faced with the backlog of surgical cases that was accumulating during the COVID surges in 2020, the hospital’s challenges had only increased.  

The hospital perioperative space had always had a large number of resources and a strong volume of cases. But in the past, the OR struggled to effectively utilize open time and allocate time toward growth. There was limited visibility and access to open operating time, so that time often went idle and attempts to manage the capacity tended to be reactive. As a result cases were frequently pushed into non-prime hours. 

This issue was compounded by an EHR that was slow, difficult to use, and provided inadequate reports and data. Because staff and surgeons could not easily use the data that was available, they came to distrust the reports and management felt under-equipped to make decisions. Although the hospital leadership formed a surgical services committee to address operating room utilization issues, it struggled to find and implement effective solutions given the complexities. 

Creating a data-driven culture of transparency and accountability to improve operating room utilization
The team tasked with finding a solution realized that the tools the hospital had were not enough to address the ongoing problems, and that even new technology alone would not support the change that was needed. To capture growth and fully utilize available time, and also adopt a culture of data transparency, they needed a platform that would both reveal the underlying problems to users and offer a simple way to solve them. Once they got stakeholders on board, they needed to keep them engaged with the solution and accountable for their OR utilization. This required not just a technology implementation but a culture shift. 

In 2020, the team chose the solution to support this shift. LeanTaaS’ iQueue for Operating Rooms provided the team with a solution to easily view, assess, and use OR time through an open and transparent “marketplace.” Its clearly presented data would also promote the organization’s needed culture change. 

Working with the iQueue team at each step, the hospital implemented the solution to alleviate the issues it was facing. The teams rolled out iQueue for Operating Rooms in manageable “waves” of training and adoption, created committees to engage users’ perspectives on their particular circumstances, and focused on configuring already familiar EHR platforms. 

With iQueue in place, surgeons and schedulers were able to easily view, claim, and schedule truly reusable time, and a simple “single source of truth” for analytics showed relevant metrics to all who needed them. Now accessing data they felt they could rely on, surgical and staff users became confident in their decision making and experienced their own metrics improving in real time. This empowered surgeons and staff and contributed to the desired new culture of data transparency. All are now aware of what is going on, accountable to results, and actively helping to continue driving improved OR utilization and organizational success. 

The results:  Since implementing iQueue at the end of 2020, the hospital OR saw: 

  • 20% decrease in unused operating hours
  • 4% increase in block time utilization and 5% increase in staffed room utilization
  • 100,000 overall increase in case minutes, with a simultaneous 5% increase in prime time utilization
  • 5x total return on investment

These results are typical for perioperative facilities that have adopted iQueue. 

What others can learn:   

  • Ask what you truly need – and be honest. If resources are being underutilized, it does not mean it’s necessary to buy or build more resources. As they became more efficient using their robot room time, for instance, the hospital realized they did not need an additional robot as they had previously believed. 
  • For a successful implementation, user buy-in is key. Surgeons and staff were able to experience how iQueue for Operating Rooms addressed their pain points and adopt it as part of their familiar EHRs. A carefully phased rollout gave them time to explore the solution and discover benefits and uses that particularly applied to them. 

To view similar cases where hospitals worked to improve operating room utilization, view the perioperative session recordings from the LeanTaaS Transform Winter 2021 event

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