How to Manage an Operating Room Like a Pro

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Operating rooms generate about 70% of a hospital’s revenue, but consume the most resources too. Operating rooms rank higher than all other departments when it comes to wastage and excess costs. Therefore, the objective for operating room leadership and management is to look for cost-saving opportunities.

This objective becomes more complex when you tie in safety and better patient outcomes. Surgical errors cost nearly $1.5 billion annually. Proper management of operating rooms can help to minimize that.

Operating room management entails:

  • Identifying capital equipment needs and efficient operating room inventory management.
  • Making management decisions on case scheduling and staffing.
  • Personnel management.
  • Championing observance of surgical standards and adherence to regulatory requirements.
  • Maintaining efficiency of service specific staffing cases

Operating Room Processing Coordination

The goals in OR process coordination include improving efficiency and productivity while delivering the best patient care. By improving efficiency, you can attain shorter case durations and minimize non-operative time (NOT) which is a net resource drain. Process coordination needs teamwork in every step of patient care.

As the OR manager, the hospital will look to you to allocate OR time, decide on case durations, and assign staffing. This planning should be done several days before the day of surgery for the OR to run like a well-oiled engine. Be that as it may, you will have to prepare for emergencies and add-on cases.

Attaining time efficiency in OR coordination

The average cost of OR time is $36 to $37 per minute. Achieving operating room time efficiency is, therefore, a sure path to attaining operating room cost reduction. Underutilized ORs and delays can lead to substantial cost build-ups. On the other hand, a small delay could snowball into a huge cost-sink. You can improve time efficiency by:

  • Adjusting block time based on the OR utilization rates.
  • Reducing the amount of underutilized ORs and overutilized cases to achieve high OR staff satisfaction.
  • Pushing for early and consistent case start times and improve the efficiency of service-specific staffing cases.
  • Implementing a system that enables seamless preparation of medical records and seamless communication between nurses, anaesthesiologists, and surgeons to achieve timely case start times.
  • Reducing downtimes due to equipment problems; you will need to optimize surgical equipment planning and fine-tune the process of equipment repair and maintenance.
  • Reducing the time between cases (turn over times) by systematizing preparation processes such as anaesthesia and sterilization and ensuring that the surgeons’ preference cards are well updated.

Material Management

Surgical supplies often need extra storage in multiple places and are often many compared to other hospital materials. As an OR manager, you will have to strike a balance between required supplies versus inventory costs. There should be everything that the surgeons need to minimize delays, but it shouldn’t be such that the excess supply results in unnecessary inventory costs.

Lean operations management can benefit your operating room when it comes to reconciling inventory management with operational efficiency and cost-cutting objectives. This management model in the hospital setting aims to reduce excessive waiting, overstocking, and unnecessary transportation.

50 % of all OR room costs stem from consumable supplies. Cost reduction, in this case, can be a complicated process, demanding the implementation of strategies such as:

Consignment: This involves finding suppliers and vendors that are willing to share the risk with you. In this arrangement, the vendor owns the material until when the patient consumes it. It helps to deal with the snag of slow-moving items.

Physical count: Performing physical counts every year can help to verify that the inventory on the shelf is as reflected on paper.

Removing obsolete items: It helps to save shelf space and reduce the labor needed in inventory management

Establishing a materials tracking system: It will help to minimize surgical delays by ensuring that surgeons have what they need when they need it.

Cost-effective sourcing: For instance, acquiring surgical headlamps instead of traditional OR lighting fixtures. Surgical headlights are modestly priced and might perform even better than standard OR light.

Monitoring OR performance

Monitoring OR performance should be done regularly, especially after changes in scheduling, equipment, and material suppliers, and other implemented efficiency measures. The best monitoring should be real-time and based on operating room efficiency metrics such as:

  • Cases start times.
  • Case duration/ block time accuracy.
  • Case turnover times.
  • Unplanned closure rates.
  • Case cancellation rates.

It is essential to publicize the performance results to everyone involved in the process, including senior leadership.

Staffing and Personnel Management

A shortage of nurses, anesthesiologists, or surgeons restricts the availability of ORs leading to underutilization costs. In this case, you will have to identify personnel deficits and how it impacts workflows. You will then have to change the ratio of nurses and surgeons for efficient use of the facility and communicate shortage needs with the human resources team.

Your other roles, in this case, would include:

  • Creating a climate of healthy professional relationships.
  • Maintaining high levels of motivation. 
  • Streamlining communication and accuracy of records through information systems and whiteboards.
  • Delegating leadership duties to lead nurses and departmental chairs.

The bottom line

Efficient operating room management demands not only good leadership but a flawless organizational structure and interdisciplinary collaboration. The process entails decision making on the distribution of resources, direction on roles and responsibilities, and frequent performance monitoring.