Operating room inventory and equipment account for nearly 60% of total hospital costs alone. However, cost is just one factor worth considering when you’re looking to improve hospital efficiency.
COVID-19 puts additional strain on hospital resources, due to the increased focus on sterilization and overcapacity of ICUs – improving hospital efficiency is a critical focus in response to these issues.
Improving hospital efficiency can be achieved by two means primarily – choice of equipment and processes, both structural and operational. Let’s take a deeper look at the relationship between hospital performance, equipment, and processes.
Improving Processes Through Lean Methods
A recent study published by Rand Health Quarterly identified how a hospital in Brevard County, Florida streamlined patient flow and drastically increased patient throughput, while also improving the quality of care.
In fact, adult patient transfers within the system increased by 300%, while inpatient bed occupancy decreased by as much as 37%.
Exactly, how did they achieve this? By looking to other industries and companies for answers.
In order to improve the quality and efficiency of care, while also reducing costs, Health First in Florida looked to Lean Methodology to overhaul their health systems and processes. Lean methodology, a concept first developed in the manufacturing sector, is focused on process improvement (both structural and operational).
Some of the key goals of Lean Methodology include:
- Deliver value to the customer – in healthcare, this would be the patient
- Eliminate waste and duplicate processes
- Improve coordination and communication between departments
- Create a standardized, data-driven approach to processes, which reduces human error
And if hospitals and healthcare facilities are looking to improve these processes, or create them from the ground up, here’s a step by step approach:
- Assess current operations in order to determine what is “valuable” to patients (and staff)
- Key stakeholders brainstorm, redesign, and implement better measures in a rapid cycle approach (changes are made and tested over a 3-4 month period)
- Reassess changes using performance data to ensure the target goal was achieved – then repeat steps one through three until all issues have been addressed
Of course, it’s easier said than done – not only is it difficult to overhaul an entire system of processes, hospitals, and care facilities need to have executive management fully on board with clearly defined goals, better operational software to track data against goals and be fully committed (organization-wide) to continual process improvement.
Inventory Management of Surgical Instruments
As noted above, operating rooms are a significant source of expenditure for most hospitals. Of course, surgeries are big profit drivers for hospitals as well, but practitioners can leverage new strategies and developing technologies to improve efficiencies and better control costs.
The biggest obstacle for surgical inventory efficiency is balancing available tools with the hospital’s carrying capacity. The more tools a surgeon requests, the higher the costs – even though many of these tools may go unused.
The goal here is to reduce inventory carrying costs without compromising care quality. In particular, better management of sterile instruments produces significant cost savings for hospitals.
Often, surgeons may request that sterile instruments be included in the sterile field as a precaution, but these instruments aren’t always used. When this happens, these unused tools must either be replaced or re-sterilized before the next procedure.
Improving Efficiency Through Better Equipment
Having the right equipment isn’t just a matter of efficiency. Innovative and improved medical equipment will shape the future of healthcare due to its ability to create more positive patient outcomes when appropriately applied.
Surgical Headlight Solutions
Surgical headlamps are an ideal supplement to traditional surgical lighting.
Hospital efficiency research shows that, on average, surgeons reposition their overhead lights every 7.5 minutes – an action that disrupts surgery 64% of the time. This type of inefficiency can detract from surgical performance, disrupt patient flow by making surgeries take longer, and worsen patient outcomes overall.
Surgical headlights, by contrast, are easy to adjust, saving significant amounts of time and preventing a break in concentration for the surgeon as they wait around for the lights to be rearranged.
Additionally, many hospitals still rely on outdated lighting infrastructure that hampers productivity in other ways. For example, older halogen lights may give off excessive heat during procedures, and clinicians may find themselves needing to adjust the trajectories of each light’s boom arms to ensure complete illumination.
But with modern surgical headlamps being used to supplement traditional lighting arrays, healthcare providers have complete control over illumination.
Either tethered or battery-powered, surgical headlamps, and surgical headlight camera systems offer carefully controlled illumination options with no washing-out or hotspots. These solutions also include features to improve surgical procedures in other ways, such as :
- Integrated camera systems to aid in surgical support, visualization, and teaching
- Manual focus and zoom capabilities to improve clarity without resolution loss
- Optical image stabilization to eliminate blur and shaky motion
Hospital Lift Technology
Ceiling-mounted hospital lifts support efficiency by making it easier for nursing staff to move patients and prepare them for transfer. Nurses will spend less time physically preparing patients and coordinating movement strategies with other caregivers, as the equipment quite literally does the heavy lifting for them, which helps reduce burnout.
Aside from reducing the amount of time it takes to move each mobility-impaired patient, these solutions boost efficiency by reducing strain on staff as well.
Research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health shows that there are 75 lift-related injuries for every 10,000 full-time hospital workers, and 107 injuries for every 10,000 workers at nursing homes and residential facilities.
Hospital lifts promote safety for caregivers while ensuring that patient transfers happen as efficiently as possible, improving care quality on several fronts at once.
Patient Flow Optimization Solutions
Many hospitals struggle to maintain efficient patient flows during patient intake, within emergency departments, and during transfers. This process of managing patient flows is known as “throughput”. Practitioners need to maintain high throughput rates to deliver prompt care.
Real-time tracking tools can support patient management throughout their stays. These real-time location systems (RTLS) are variable and come in a variety of technologies, such as:
- Radio frequency
By integrating with clinical software, these systems pull data from health care records and give providers new ways to manage the patient experience. Providers can track the location of any patient in the facility while also receiving updates about test results, from labs, regarding resource capacity, and other critical patient flow details.
Medical Asset Management Tracking
Similar to the above, hospitals can boost efficiency by better tracking and managing key equipment and devices. With barcode/RFID-based tracking, practitioners can keep tabs on tools like heart monitors, IVs, defibrillators, or any other durable tools used throughout the facility.
These asset management solutions improve hospital efficiency in a number of ways by providing the following:
- Provide real-time visibility into where equipment is located across facilities
- Get information on how each piece of equipment is being used
- Reduce capital costs of equipment purchases (which may already be available in nearby clinics, unused)
Medical asset management tracking is one of the best ways to improve equipment utilization planning. Any time a new piece of equipment is needed, practitioners can review their assets to determine whether it’s in the facility, and if not, whether it could be rented, or whether it needs to be bought outright.
What better way to boost efficiency than letting patients manage intake on their own? This is the benefit of automated or self-service kiosks. When hospitals leverage self-service solutions for patient data collection and intake, they can unlock big boosts to throughput.
A self-service kiosk lets patients enter their histories, issues, and critical medical details directly into the clinical software. It’s a quick way to capture and centralize patient information without the need to fill out paperwork by hand. By streamlining data entry in this way, hospitals can improve patient flow on several fronts, including:
- Reduce patient waiting times through quicker data entry
- Boost throughput by moving patients more efficiently through an intake
- Save caregivers’ time by having patients enter their own information
- Create detailed digital records that are easier to transmit and share among specialists
Plus, self-service kiosks feature simple integrations with existing software systems, creating an easy-to-adopt way to boost intake productivity. With these systems, hospitals gain a simple method to speed up patient intake and prevent manual data entry from disrupting tight schedules.
Improving Hospital Efficiency Through Technology
There’s a notable link between hospital efficiency and technology. These days, quality patient outcomes are driven by technology. Practitioners should review their workflows and consider how the application of a new asset tracking system or integrated surgical headlamp could support their ongoing goal of improving hospital efficiency.
In particular, integrated headlamp solutions from BFW can be the perfect way to bring clarity and efficiency to your surgical operations.
Our headlights bring plenty of benefits to your practice across surgical illumination and video imaging. In addition, doctors are more productive during surgeries when supported by surgical headlights, with less need to halt the operation to adjust the lighting. It’s a better system of surgical management that supports faster, more efficient procedures.
Surgical headlights improve hospital efficiency by providing surgeons the tools they need to keep their attention focused on their patients when it matters most. The technology for better patient care is out there, and hospitals can’t afford to wait.