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Case Study 1 min read

Large regional hospital gains new insight into root causes for low operating room utilization through a data analytics deep dive.

A picture of a surgeon reaching for a medical instrument in an operating room.

The challenge

A large teaching hospital with 600-plus beds, more than 25 operating rooms, and over $500 million in revenue was concerned with their low operating room (OR) utilization. The surgeons at this facility expressed a growing difficulty to schedule cases due to the hospital’s poorly optimized block schedule and limited OR capacity. After reviewing reports that showed its ORs were underutilized, the hospital’s executive team didn’t know if they should trust the data — or the feedback from their surgeons. The hospital needed help to understand this dichotomy and develop a strategy to move forward.

The solution

The hospital’s executive team engaged our data analytics and healthcare operational performance solutions teams to:

  • Analyze the hospital’s OR utilization and scheduling processes.
  • Identify opportunities to improve OR utilization.
  • Use their data for actionable improvements.

Using advanced data analytics techniques, we uncovered patterns that explained why surgeons find difficulties scheduling cases even though the OR wasn’t fully utilized. These included:

  • Some surgeons’ block utilization varied greatly by weekday.
  • Poorly optimized block durations left unusable block fragments.
  • Some cases had procedure times that were significantly longer than scheduled. 

Despite recently deploying dashboards with traditional OR key performance indicators (KPIs), the surgeons were reluctant to trust the metrics. We helped them trust this data by using creative analysis and data visualization techniques to validate the metrics. We illustrated the financial and operational impact of traditional KPIs that also contributed to the hospital’s low OR utilization, including:

  • 31-minute average room turnover (<20-minute benchmark)
  • 42% first case on-time start rate (>85% benchmark)
  • 6% same-day cancellation rate (<1.5% benchmark)
  • 17% add-on case rate (<5% benchmark)

Our team of data scientists, clinical consultants, and healthcare process improvement experts met with surgeons and staff individually, inviting them to be part of the solution. Their candid input helped everyone to understand the current issues, and engaging all parties early contributed to smoother change implementation.

The benefit

We presented our analysis and recommendations to the hospital’s Surgical Services Executive Committee where it was met with unanimous support and an overwhelming eagerness to move forward. Having engaged numerous consultants in the past, the hospital found that our pragmatic, data-driven approach provided differentiated value and immediate, tangible benefits including:

  • Strengthened relationships between surgeons and the hospital.
  • Improved understanding of root causes for the OR’s utilization.
  • Quantified revenue opportunity for process improvements.
  • A clear, tactical path to implement our recommendations.