With its 38 physical operating rooms and its need to recruit new surgeons, Rush had a completely blocked schedule with short auto-release times. This caused a number of challenges to truly optimizing OR capacity and helping surgeons find sufficient open operating time to perform their cases.
“When I started this role [in 2020], I immediately had calls from surgeons wanting more time in the OR”, says Janet Stifter, VP Hospital Operations, Perioperative and Interventional Services and Professional Nursing Practice at Rush. “We were constantly trying to recruit new surgeons…when everything is blocked on the OR schedule it was a hard sell.”
Due to this scarcity, departments tended to hoard what time they did have and were reluctant to release it. Some low-utilization specialties were especially prone to holding on to time. In this environment, new surgeons were challenged with finding and reserving the operating time they needed.
Especially after the backlog of postponed or delayed cases accumulated after the initial COVID-19 surge in 2020, Rush needed a technology solution that would help unlock as much OR capacity as possible while improving utilization and developing surgeons’ trust that they could obtain the time they needed.
Rush went live with iQueue for Operating Rooms during the pandemic. The implementation, which entailed minimal change management, immediately made data about block utilization visible to surgeons, department leaders and schedulers alike. This single source of truth led to productive, fact-centered discussions about how much time individual surgeons truly needed, as well as how to release or transfer time that was not being actively used across surgeons and service lines. Overall, this enabled more cases to be performed in the time and space available. “One of the most powerful things about iQueue was the data…surgeons really relate to data,” says Stifter. Surgeon trust in the scheduling system was noticeably strengthened by this data access.
The iQueue Exchange module was particularly crucial to addressing the problems Rush faced. The user-friendly, OpenTable-like platform let surgeons actively reserve and release time as well as track their own performance metrics. Newer surgeons felt empowered to claim the time they needed, while more senior surgeons felt freer to release excess time they were allocated but did not need. As Stifter describes, “the whole concept of surgeons using technology to drive their own scheduling is a lucrative portion of using iQueue.”