David Belson, PhD, University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering, Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
Operating Rooms (ORs) are a hospital’s most costly operational area. When run efficiently it can be a source of solid revenue, but when run inefficiently, it causes operational and fiscal heartburn. Much focus is centered on turnaround times, which is identified a primary source of problems. Operating room turnaround time is the time between a patient “Wheels Out” (WO) and when the subsequent patient “Wheels In” (WI), and is important to a surgery center’s performance but difficult to manage well. Minimizing this time is critical but delays often occur which cause fewer surgeries to be completed resulting in less revenue. New technology implemented at a hospital with multiple operating rooms has been successful in reducing some of the overall turnaround inefficiencies. The technology employs a powerful combination of RFID (to track the real time location of patients, assets and staff) and automated alerts and statuses via a mobile communication platform – this provides hospital management with the information they need for advanced planning and in-the-moment course corrections throughout the day.
Critical to prompt operating room turnaround times is the environmental services (EVS) function. The new communication platform alerts EVS to an upcoming room cleaning, and once initiated, tracks the progress of EVS and other staff so that the room can be turned over and the next patient can be moved into the OR as soon as possible. This has resulted in improved performance and patient satisfaction of the surgery service. The results are particularly significant because the ORs were already performing with time shorter than most surgery centers.