How to Improve Operating Room Efficiency

These Small Improvements Can Yield Big Results

As the demand for operational efficiency in healthcare organizations grows, hospitals are striving to make their operating rooms more efficient than ever through utilizing block scheduling, optimizing anesthesia services, and prioritizing staff retention. 

Optimizing the efficiency of your OR is vital to financial sustainability. These easy to implement improvements can pay big dividends on your journey to greater OR efficiency.

1. Utilize Data-Driven Block Scheduling

Since an unused, available operating room can cost a hospital as much as $100 a minute, ORs are the primary driver of many facilities’ margins, generating nearly 70% of a hospital’s revenue and just 40% of expenses. Therefore, it’s essential they are used as efficiently as possible.

In fact, scheduling issues are one of the main contributors to OR downtime and reduced utilization rates. It’s estimated that most ORs only achieve a 50-60% utilization rate.

Block scheduling leverages real-time data, allowing hospitals to dedicate time for specific surgeons and common procedures. This enables ORs to optimize variable blocks, minimizing downtime and maximizing patient throughput and alignment among surgical staff.

2. Optimize Anesthesia Services

Anesthesia consulting services can help your hospital understand important issues with their anesthesia providers. They also identify and solve bottlenecks in patient flow, such as developing pre-anesthesia screening programs that streamline admissions and minimize delays. Generally, anesthesia consulting services can improve patient flow throughout the hospital as a whole by:

  • Increasing parallel processing for regional anesthesia 
  • Addressing medical issues prior to surgeries
  • Minimizing delays and improving on-time start rates

3. Prioritize Staff Retention

Turnover is expensive, and recruiting replacement staff becomes an increasingly costly endeavor after more staff leave. To reduce your dependence on expensive contingent staffing solutions, dedicate focus and resources to building a team culture within the OR.

Keep these points in mind when fostering culture in the OR:

  1. Leadership sets the tone for your team’s attitude: Understand that your hospital and OR leadership’s attitudes will make their way into the teams handling day-to-day operations in the OR. Positive attitudes and supportive cultures will engage and earn buy-in from valuable staff, while toxic cultures and unrealistic expectations will push staff to leave.
  2. Loyalty is a two-way street: As the healthcare industry faces staffing shortages, you can count on your staff to know their current leverage. Ensure your hospital’s benefits program gives OR staff a reason to reciprocate that loyalty. Starting points include rest periods, volunteer opportunities, or scheduling leniency—which can be achieved with block scheduling.
  3. Peer-to-peer culture matters: A lack of mutual understanding or respect between surgeons and OR staff can have a devastating impact on your hospital’s retention efforts. Ensure you have a governance structure that will ensure cooperation between high and low-volume surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other OR staff.

OR Efficiency Is Within Reach—Sullivan Healthcare Consulting Can Help You Get There

Improving OR efficiency marginally can dramatically affect your hospital’s financial stability. After all, the OR is not only the main margin driver, but it also determines the efficiency of your broader organization. By optimizing scheduling, leveraging anesthesia management services, and fostering a healthy, sustainable workplace culture, OR efficiency can improve significantly. 

If you want to enhance patient outcomes and throughput, reduce operational costs, and keep your talented staff around, get in touch with Sullivan’s team of consultants today. Our perioperative experts will help you assess and benchmark all OR services, optimize surgical services operations, and provide guidance on implementing long-lasting solutions to each specific issue.

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