3 Tips for Improving Your Pre-Anesthesia Testing Processes

Take $120 and put it in the garbage. Wait a minute. Do it again. Wait another minute. Repeat.

Would your OR find that an acceptable use of funds? It’s unlikely. Yet, with a single minute in the OR costing as much as $120, ASCs, hospital outpatient departments (HOPD), and ORs regularly waste much more than that.

The reasons for low OR utilization rates are multifactorial, yet they often trace back to ineffective pre-anesthesia testing processes. When effective processes aren’t in place, clinical staff don’t have the information they need to safely or legally proceed with a procedure. Failing to collect, communicate, and distribute pre-surgical information impacts each team involved with a surgery, from surgeons and anesthesiologists to clinical support staff and administrators.

Not only do ineffective testing processes waste staff time, but they also create risks that directly impact an organization’s bottom line. Ineffective pre-anesthesia testing can cause medical errors and put patients in great danger. Likewise, staff whose time is consistently wasted due to pre-anesthesia testing errors could leave the organization. Finally, each case delay impacts the following cases. Patients who may already be stressed must endure unexpected and lengthy waits, creating a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons.

The downstream impacts of poorly managed testing processes are massive and threaten to destabilize ORs. No modern healthcare organization can afford that. So, what can your organization do to improve the pre-anesthesia testing process? Start by focusing on these three strategies.

1. Start and End With Communication

Communication is far and away the most crucial element in successful pre-anesthesia testing processes. With numerous individuals and departments involved in each case, it’s paramount that all team members share a mutual understanding of the case.

Some vital areas for communication include:

  • Surgeon to patient
  • Surgeon to scheduling
  • Patient to pre-anesthesia testing
  • Pre-surgical screeners to anesthesia
  • Pre-surgical screeners to pre-op
  • Pre-op to OR
  • OR to post-anesthesia care unit

When information flows between these points in the patient’s care journey, schedules are efficient and accurate, surgeons and OR staff are prepared, and safety risks are reduced dramatically.

2. Develop Standard Processes

Communication is essential for an effective pre-anesthesia testing process. However, simply communicating isn’t always enough, especially when messages may differ across — or even within — departments.

Therefore, screening and testing processes should be standardized and formed into checklists. Predictable documentation makes the process easier for everyone, regardless of their department. It also allows crucial information to be rapidly identified and verified, increasing interdepartmental trust.

To transform communication and processes from theoretical to practical, create policies detailing how communication should occur during pre-anesthesia testing. Then, have your perioperative executive committee enforce these policies. Remember, accountability is vital. Without it, you risk patient safety and financial sustainability.

3. Break Down Silos and Build Accountability

Rotating staff between areas, forming interdepartmental task forces to tackle issues, and shadowing other clinicians can benefit teams adversely affected by their pre-anesthesia testing processes.

Not only will breaking down silos keep clinical staff engaged, it will also increase peer-to-peer accountability, identify opportunities for improvement, and increase their empathy for their colleagues.

Another way to create accountability is by sharing public scorecards and performance publications detailing first-case start times, patient satisfaction scores, cancellations, and other indicators of the effectiveness of pre-anesthesia testing.

If you pursue this approach, be sure that your organization has the resources to support struggling teams and individuals; otherwise, you may risk generating animosity rather than accountability. However, a more likely outcome is that staff take an increased sense of ownership over their role in the pre-surgical process.

Want to Boost OR Utilization? Focus on Pre-Anesthesia Testing

The pre-anesthesia testing process is imperative for patient safety, staff satisfaction, and your organization’s bottom line. It ultimately sets the tone for the broader perioperative care setting, thus demanding excellence. However, with dozens of stakeholders involved, the pre-anesthesia testing process is anything but simple.

To enhance your organization’s process, focus on communications, standard operating procedures and checklists, and interdepartmental accountability. Communications during the pre-anesthesia testing process are critical to efficient and effective patient throughput; they dictate whether patients have a smooth journey to the OR and if your OR and staff are utilized efficiently. The communications during this process must be precise, and therefore, using a structured approach such as a checklist will assure patients are safe and allow clinical teams to make informed decisions. Finally, by breaking down silos and cultivating accountability, your perioperative services can drive rapid improvements to the patient experience and your organization’s bottom line.

Your OR possesses incredible potential, yet it can pose a significant financial risk without the right processes in place. Identifying the reasons behind low OR utilization rates is foundational to stabilizing your revenue cycle and sustaining profitability in the ever-changing healthcare environment.

If your OR’s utilization rates aren’t meeting your expectations, get in touch with Sullivan’s ambulatory surgery center consultants and perioperative consultants today.

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