I have dedicated my career to helping people—starting as a nurse, moving into perioperative management and now working with TeleTracking to help health systems across the country improve their operations so they can better serve their patients and caregivers. My diverse experiences have led to a deep insight into the clinical side of the business and what frontline workers face, as well as the business and financial side of the industry. One aspect of operations that technology solutions positively impact is the operating room/perioperative space—leading to efficient, on-time, accurate care.
COVID-19 has had an effect of every aspect of healthcare and the operating room is no exception. There are three challenges that have emerged:
The operating room is a unique place—it's the largest revenue generator and probably the largest cost center for most hospitals, but at the same time you're dealing with limited resources. The bottom line is you have more surgeons needing resources, than you have resources to give. It's a balancing act every day—then when you put pressures of not enough staff, not enough supplies and a high number of cases, it's a lot to juggle.
Let's dive deeper into the backlog. If you look at a recent McKinsey study, they say that hospital systems lost an estimated $200 billion between March 2020 and June 2020, which created a huge backlog. In fact, it's estimated there's probably about a million joint and spine surgeries and probably 1.1 to 1.6 million cataract surgeries in that backlog. That's a lot of pressure on the surgeons to help their patient get their lives back. And then, of course, the hospitals have a lot of revenue to make up. McKinsey estimated that if a hospital can increase utilization by 10%, it's still going to take almost two years to get through that backlog—and that's assuming no more suspensions of surgery because of pandemic spikes or other issues.
The next part is staffing. There are staff members who either aren't coming back or have retired. Colleagues have also shared that some nurses are quitting and becoming traveling nurses because the pay is so lucrative right now. This is simply not a sustainable situation, so leaders have to try to figure out how to retain staff because without staff, you can't keep the rooms open—and you have even less rooms to use to address the backlogs.
And then, supply chain, we've heard a lot about the PPE shortages, but there's a long list of supplies that’s needed in the OR. Surgical drapes, PVE equipment, foam and implants are just a few of the materials being impacted by supply chain delays.
TeleTracking's solution to help with effective patient flow through the peri-operative space is Clinical Workflow Suite, which creates visibility by showing each step in the process and helps increase capacity and on-time starts. It puts situational awareness at your fingertips. Whether it's displayed on a big board or through a mobile application, you can get a good idea of what's going on in each patient case and determine what needs to be changed, what any decisions need to be made.
And this is where the business case comes into play. It makes it possible to take on more cases with the same number of resources by creating time. Based on the case mix and the types of surgeries it's possible to create a dollar value to quantify what the increased efficiency will generate.
Finally, you need to have staff engagement. I've found the staff in the operating room is often ahead of the curve from the rest of the hospital as far as technology and automation. If they're seasoned nurses like myself, they've seen the evolution. The newer nurses grew up with technology and expect it. With Clinical Workflow Suite it's easy to share with the staff how it's going to make things better. Getting their cases started on time, being able to schedule cases accurately so that surgeons not telling you they need an hour, but you know because we have the data that they need an hour and a half.
And the overarching result? A better experience for patients, who are able to receive care in a timely manner and a better experience for caregivers who are able to deliver it.
Mark Holoska is Vertical Business Development Executive for TeleTracking Technologies. Mark began his career in perioperative services as a scrub and circulating nurse, OR Business Manager, and Surgical Services Manager—with experience working in military hospitals as a Captain in the U.S. Army, small community hospitals, and large level 1 trauma centers as a travel and staff nurse. As electronic scheduling and documentation systems became more prevalent, Mark transitioned to the technology side of healthcare, using his clinical knowledge as a workflow consultant, ORIS product manager and client success management.