Smarter Surgery Scheduling Drives Lower Cost

Focusing on your Surgery Scheduling Program can result in improved financial and operational efficiencies. Over decades of evaluating surgery scheduling programs, we have identified the typical characteristics of an ineffective scheduling program:

  • Late surgeons, anesthesiology, and nursing
  • Crisis management of daily schedule (e.g., continual case juggling)
  • Holes in the schedule, poor utilization
  • Extended patient pre- and postoperative length of stay
  • Excessive overtime
  • Poor employee morale
  • Bottlenecked patient volume

Addressing these issues will decrease your cost per case by improving facility utilization and increasing the number of cases realistically scheduled each day.

Coverage Plan and Variable Schedule Access

A coverage plan based on historical daily demand is the starting point to developing an effective scheduling program. This historic daily demand analysis is then used in conjunction with the organization’s surgery strategic goals to develop coverage and block assignment. This requires agreement and balance between nursing and anesthesiology, and both groups must support a process that fosters an achievable coverage plan. Coverage plans should also include a built-in mechanism for managing after-hours and other add-on cases.

An effective block scheduling program should be individualized to your specific perioperative program and includes variable block sizes and release times. Several factors must be examined to determine the appropriate block allocations for each surgeon and information must be gathered to define the coverage plan, allocate urgent/emergent time, and define block policies and procedures. A best practice block scheduling program should also include a commitment to transparency and an ability to increase, decrease, or modify blocks as utilization changes.

With proper implementation and ongoing management, a best practice block scheduling program will lay the foundation for creating schedules in balance with demand and facilitate case volume growth and surgeon recruitment and retention.

Effective Scheduling Administration and Management

Achieving consistent on-time case starts is a team process that demands systematic preparation. Your hospital must first develop a scheduling governance structure to support continued management of daily scheduling activities, data input activity, and coordination with supply chain managers. A program leader should work with key personnel to draft and administer well-defined surgery scheduling policies and procedures, with continued block scheduling management.

A successful perioperative governance team balances the needs of the often-competing agendas of those affected by the surgery schedule.

Sullivan Healthcare Consulting has a proven track record of meeting this challenge by:

  • Securing surgeon participation
  • Ensuring convenient scheduling
  • Readily accommodating add-ons
  • Guaranteeing timely turnover and start times
  • Accommodating urgent / emergent volume
  • Meeting new equipment requests
  • Building and maintaining the proper skill mix of staff • Recruiting and retaining valuable clinicians

4 Key Elements of a Successful Perioperative Organization Governance Structure:

1. The surgery executive committee

2. The surgery medical director

3. A revised surgery committee

4. Effective perioperative management.

The team at Sullivan Healthcare Consulting can help your organization select the right team members for both committees, the surgery medical director role, and the perioperative management team, based on the goals and responsibilities that our consultants help define for each position. Working in tandem, these four elements form the required governance structure to support a successful perioperative environment.

Sullivan Healthcare Consulting also offers assistance with developing and implementing perioperative area-specific management goals. Also, our information management consultants will work within the new governance structure to create the reports required to measure progress and encourage improvement.


Our scheduling consultations can help your management team address the reasons why your surgery program is not accurately predicting case times, such as an inaccurate procedure file database, improper use of scheduling software, over generalized procedure files, and a lack of standard case names.

In addition, Sullivan Healthcare Consulting can help put an efficient procedure in place that distinguishes routine cases from higher acuity cases and accurately matches coverage with demand. Further, our team will optimize your conflict check process. Lastly, our team can design management information reports that provide a concrete basis for review and monitoring of the scheduling program.

Contact our team of experts today for comprehensive perioperative consulting and healthcare consulting services.

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