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Today’s surgery scheduling technology can address OR staffing challenges

  • Elizabeth Stocum
    Elizabeth Stocum

    Product Marketing Manager, iQueue for Operating Rooms

Ongoing healthcare staffing shortages have critically impacted both inpatient and infusion spaces. Technology has helped support and optimize staff in these settings and can address operating room staffing challenges as well, especially via effective surgery scheduling.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, perioperative nurse leaders and administrators already struggled to recruit and retain qualified healthcare workers to accommodate unpredictable surgery schedules. The nursing population was aging and the environment to retain qualified healthcare workers was competitive. The pandemic then caused demand for staff to dramatically increase while critically depleting supply. 

The American Nursing Association (ANA) alerted the US Department of Health and Human Services of the crisis in a September 2021 letter with an urge to declare a national nurse staffing crisis and take immediate action to resolve the issue.  Nurses have continued to shoulder the brunt throughout the pandemic – leading to burnout, occupation dissatisfaction, and mistrust of leadership within healthcare organizations. These circumstances continue to make retention of operating room staff a challenge.

The nursing shortage crisis, coupled with the influx of case volume historically realized in the fourth quarter of each year, imposes further staffing constraints. Operational strategies to supplement unstaffed operating rooms, such as using contract or travel nurses, currently at a premium, and closing rooms during prime hours, has a clear negative impact on the bottom line. Resource optimization is key to maximizing and utilizing current staff, specifically during prime time hours. 

A solution to alleviate staff shortages in the operating room

Although LeanTaaS’ iQueue for Operating Rooms software solutions cannot directly address OR staffing shortages by filling resource gaps, the iQueue team has successfully helped hospitals and health systems across the country optimize the resources that are available, particularly during prime operating hours. iQueue for Operating Rooms provides greater visibility into elective surgery backlog and enables hospitals to more efficiently flex OR space and better communicate available time given the staffing and anesthesia resource constraints. Hospitals that have employed iQueue have seen impressive results. 

Leading hospitals are leveraging surgery scheduling technology to address staff shortages

“With staffing challenges across the community, understanding what resources we would need played a part in how we staffed our ORs,” said Dr. Binesh Patel, Chief Medical Officer of McLaren Health Care, in a recent podcast with Becker’s Healthcare. “It was critical to understand what the resources were, and by improving access to surgeons and proceduralists, we could move those resources around to match their demand.” Especially when patients began to schedule elective procedures in McLaren’s ORs again, “it was crucial that surgeons had that opportunity to improve access” and move through the backlog without undue hours of work.  

The McLaren team found iQueue for Operating Rooms to be a “very simple format, that made clinics and surgeons able to access time and board cases much more efficiently than how they had before.”

Another health system that uses iQueue, UCHealth, saw clear downstream outcomes from empowering staff to make decisions and take action with optimal information and efficiency. UCHealth CIO Steve Hess described the difficulty of aligning staff, resources, and other factors to enable perioperative facilities to function effectively. On the impact of iQueue, Hess said “what we’ve seen is not only operational efficiency, but also financial ROI, 4x ROI or upwards of 15x ROI.” This yield clearly shows how existing OR staff at UCHealth was optimized.

While finding additional staff will remain a challenge for these hospitals and health systems, as well as others, the support of technology can help to utilize, deploy, and retain the staff that already exists. As shortages continue, such support will be key. 

Visit the iQueue for Operating Rooms Resource page for further information and success stories.

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