Operating Room Management: Scheduling and OR Efficiency

Operating Room Management: How Digital Scheduling Can Improve OR Efficiency

Operating rooms (ORs) account for roughly 60% of a hospital’s revenue,1 but they also represent the largest hospital cost category.2 As a result, effective operating room management can make or break the financial stability of your hospital. Yet, many operating room managers and staff lack the technology needed to optimize OR utilization, including physician scheduling software and exam room scheduling tools.

How to Improve Operating Room Management

Many hospitals target “on-time first case starts,” meaning the first operation begins on time with no delays, as a baseline for using operating room time most efficiently.3 Delays in first case starts can delay OR operations for the remainder of the day, frustrating patients and surgical teams. For diligent leaders, the essential first step to streamlining processes that get patients, surgeons, and equipment to the operating table on time is to evaluate how clinical teams and cases are scheduled.

Implementing the right provider scheduling and operating room management system can help hospitals and health systems holistically address OR efficiency. An advanced solution will also arm clinical and operational leaders with the data they need to track progress and set benchmarks for success. Investing in comprehensive scheduling technology can maximize the operational efficiency of your OR, increase patient access, improve patient throughput, and increase revenue.

4 Ways Physician Scheduling Software Improves Operating Room Efficiency

1. Digitizing Provider Schedules for Real-Time Visibility

Without proper scheduling technology, clinical teams can have trouble accessing the latest schedule and keeping it up to date. As schedules are updated, different versions of the schedule can linger and create confusion for both clinicians and administrators. A digital scheduling platform increases schedule access by making real-time schedules available on any device 24/7.

Hospitals and health systems that deploy a single digital scheduling solution across the enterprise can further streamline operating room management and efficiency by giving OR managers, directors, and others one place to see schedules for all clinical staff moving in and out of the OR.

2. Automating the Scheduling Process

Based on client data, we estimate that each specialty department in a hospital spends roughly 291 hours building and managing shift schedules. Much of that work is delegated to physicians and clinical leaders who know the ins and outs of their departments’ schedules. Automating the schedule-building process with a rules-based scheduling solution frees up physician’s time so they can get back to revenue-generating patient care.

3. Leveraging Data to More Efficiently Manage Resources

A schedule becomes a tool for resource optimization when organizations can analyze and compare historical staffing patterns and create future schedules that align staffing with patient demand. The result? Efficient use of capital resources and more productive, satisfied staff. Prescriptive analytics can give organizations insight into patterns of provider supply and patient demand on a daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal basis. Supply and demand patterns help leadership optimally allocate resources as needed for certain surgical services, allowing organizations to cut waste, increase patient access, and avoid patient leakage.

4. Improving OR and Exam Room Scheduling

The right scheduling tool can provide the proper utilization metrics to set benchmarks for improving operating room management and efficiency. With real-time visibility into OR availability, turnover times, and openings, users can best schedule providers and surgical teams directly into specific operating rooms.

OR Outcomes: Optimal Utilization and Increased Revenue

1. Reduction of Errors and Improved Operational Efficiency

Automating the scheduling process saves time and reduces the risk of human errors leading to empty rooms, double bookings, and other inefficiencies that cost time and money. With real-time schedule availability, your staff can waste less time on back-and-forth communication about open rooms and scheduling.

2. Improved Patient Access and Patient Experience

By reducing errors and optimizing the scheduling of clinical staff and operating rooms, great scheduling software helps ensure your patients receive timely care, fewer delays, and less frustration. An ideal solution will also allow your team to identify gaps and opportunities in your OR utilization—improving patient access and generating additional revenue for your hospital.

3. Increased Provider Satisfaction and Retention

A scheduling solution can eliminate many of the frustrations providers experience when it comes to their schedule, including inconvenient errors and the struggle to find the latest version of the schedule. When operating room resources are optimally utilized, physicians can see more patients, leading to more billable services per provider.

The result of better OR scheduling? An overall increase in revenue and profitability for your hospital. With the proper technology, your organization can increase patient throughput, reduce overhead costs of underutilized operating rooms, and improve OR efficiency.

Discover how one major health system leveraged our physician scheduling software to uncover hidden resource availability and maximize its utilization of exam rooms and operating rooms.

Sources

  1. Analysis of the US and EU5 Hospital Operating Room (OR) Products and Solutions Market, Forecast to 2022, Frost & Sullivan, May 2019: images.discover.frost.com/Web/FrostSullivan/%7B633567b3-e18e-4fd3-82d8-bd6fd5bfc13f%7D_MDD8_Preview.pdf
  2. Where Are the Costs in Perioperative Care?: Analysis of Hospital Costs and Charges for Inpatient Surgical Care, Alex Macario, MD, MBA, Terry S. Vitez, MD, Brian Dunn, BA, Tom McDonald, MD, Anesthesiology—Vol 83, Pages 1138-1144, 1995: pubs.asahq.org/anesthesiology/article/83/6/1138/49/Where-Are-the-Costs-in-Perioperative-Care-Analysis
  3. 7 of the Most Important Metrics for Measuring OR Efficiency, Becker’s Hospital Review, Jan. 19 2012: beckershospitalreview.com/or-efficiencies/7-of-the-most-important-metrics-for-measuring-or-efficiency.html

 

How Outdated On-Call Scheduling is Hurting Your Hospital

Whether your hospital lacks on-call scheduling technology or manages physician schedules manually, poor on-call scheduling wastes the valuable time of your clinical staff. It delays patient care and leads to provider dissatisfaction. Physician on-call schedule management shouldn’t be a manual task.

The connection between call schedules and time to treatment is critical. As patients with emergency medical conditions arrive in the ED or need specialty care, the on-call schedule plays a key role in communicating patient care needs to providers across the organization.

Yet, some hospitals still manage on-call schedules manually, with administrators faxing paper copies of the schedule to departments across the hospital, or manually inputting the schedule to a central location. These manual, inaccurate schedules delay care and frustrate clinical staff.

“Every unit had a three-ring binder that basically had a copy of the paper schedule. Everybody got a paper copy of it and put it in the three-ring binder and that was the call schedule for the month. Hopefully it was accurate, sometimes it wasn’t.”

– Dr. Scott James, Emergency Physician and Medical Director at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center Omaha (CHMC)

How are on-call schedules really impacting your hospital?

1. Poor On-Call Schedule Management Wastes Time

Up to 40% of communication time is spent attempting, but failing, to reach the correct provider or searching for contact information.1

Clinical communication researchers refer to this as “problematic” time—time that nurses spend trying, but ultimately failing, to communicate with the correct provider. Some examples of problematic time include:

  • Paging or calling the incorrect physician.
  • Searching for information, like the latest schedule, in order to determine which provider should be contacted.
  • Looking for updated contact information for a provider.
  • Combing through sticky notes and desk calendars to find who is on rotation.

Sound familiar? If so, your communication process might take longer to deliver the result to the lab, specialist, or patient.

An outdated, repetitive process doesn’t just impact nursing staff. Call-center representatives, administrative team members, and physicians need to regularly locate and connect with clinical staff across your hospital. These inefficient workflows cost time and money for the whole organization.

2. Delayed Communication Leads to Delayed Time to Treatment

80% of serious medical errors are tied to miscommunication.2

Medical scheduling software is at the heart of communication for any healthcare organization, particularly call shift schedules. Time to treatment not only impacts care quality, but also the patient experience. As more patients are looking for care outside of traditional healthcare settings, speeding up patient care is key to minimizing patient leakage.

Communication delivery is only as accurate as the schedules which direct the solution’s routing rules, even for organizations that have a secure messaging platform. Integrating communication platforms with accurate schedules will improve patient and provider satisfaction.

3. Frustrating Workflows Contribute to Provider Turnover

“In the acute care setting, communication failures lead to increases in patient harm, length of stay, and resource use, as well as more intense caregiver dissatisfaction and more rapid turnover.”1

Communication errors can drive clinical staff morale, satisfaction, and turnover. Clinician turnover can be a huge drain on hospital resources, resulting in lost revenue and increasing labor costs.

  • It costs anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million to recruit and replace a single physician.3
  • Nurse turnover costs up to $58,000 per nurse.4

So, how do on-call schedules impact provider morale? Here are a couple ways inaccurate, outdated schedules can foster confusion and frustration:

  • Problematic time keeps nurses away from patient care
  • Paper calendars and spreadsheets quickly become out of date, making it difficult for physicians to determine when they are on-call

Studies suggest there’s a connection between quality-of-care delivery and provider satisfaction.1 As communication errors negatively impact patient care, provider satisfaction is likely to be impacted as well. Before providers contemplate exiting your healthcare system, give them a better physician scheduling program.

On-Call Scheduling Solutions for Better Management

Implementing a single enterprise-wide on-call scheduling software is the most efficient and cost-effective way to streamline clinical communication for your organization. Not only does it eliminate significant manual work, but it enables better care coordination and drives provider satisfaction.

“To be able to see who is the surgeon that’s going to be taking this case, who’s the radiologist on call, who’s the infectious disease provider on call—all at a glance—that just has huge value to an organization for patient safety and workflow efficiency.”

– Dr. Corey Joekel, Chief Medical Information Officer, CHMC

An enterprise-wide, on-call scheduling platform can streamline hospital communication by enabling:

  1. Each department to quickly build and manage their on-call schedules. Significant time is wasted in each hospital department building with managing on-call and shift schedules. On-call scheduling software automates the schedule creation process, freeing up time for administrators and even physicians that are often saddled with the task.
  1. 24/7 real-time access to call schedules from any device. With a single enterprise-wide scheduling software, on-call and shift schedules from every department are available in a centralized location. Schedules become available in real-time on any device. As out of office, vacation time, sick leave, or shift changes occur, hospital staff can be confident they have the correct schedule.
  1. Full specialty call coverage for your entire hospital. When on-call schedules are manually managed, there’s plenty of room for error. As providers swap shifts and administrators make changes to call schedules, these errors leave gaps in call coverage. An automated system ensures complete specialty call coverage while offering visibility into call schedules across the hospital.
  1. Faster speed to care—reduce time to contact on-call providers by up to 88%. On-call scheduling software reduces the time to contact on-call providers by as much as 88%. An easy click-to-connect workflow simplifies the process of contacting providers while real-time schedules make it easy to determine who’s on call. The result? Faster patient care.

Interested in Exploring More Benefits of On-Call Provider Scheduling?

Download our infographic “6 Reasons to Implement an Enterprise On-Call Scheduling Platform” for a deep dive into the key reasons every hospital should consider an enterprise-wide physician scheduling solution.

Sources

    1. Improving Patient Safety Through Provider Communication Strategy Enhancements, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US), Dingley, C. et all., Advances in Patient Safety: New Directions and Alternative Approaches—Vol. 3, Aug. 2008: ncbi.nlm.nih.cov/books/NBK43663
    2. Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare Releases Targeted Solutions Tool for Hand-Off Communication, Aug. 2012: jointcommission.org
    3. At Stanford, physician burnout costs at least $7.75 million a year, American Medical Association, Sara Berg, American Medical Association, Nov. 17, 2017: ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health-stanford-physician-burnout-costs-least-775-million-year
    4. The High Cost of Nurse Turnover, The University of New Mexico, Nov. 30, 2016: rnbsnonline.unm.edu/articles/high-cost-of-nurse-turnover.aspx