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October 24, 2019 Article 4 min read
Optimized block schedules and industry benchmarks can help you make important decisions. How does your operating room’s key performance indicators stack up? Consider these six questions as you compare your OR to your competitors.
surgeon optimizing OR efficiency in operating room

The operating room (OR) is the second front door to your hospital, generating more than 60% of hospital revenues. There’s a busy new surgical group in town that you want to bring to your hospital, and you hear about ‘capacity issues’ from your team. Your top surgeons and your most trusted staff are telling you that it’s time to make that door bigger, but how can you be 100% sure your current OR performance is optimized?

Consider this six-question sanity check to understand where your performance stands:

1. Have you achieved operational excellence in your current state?

If you haven’t recently compared your OR’s key performance indicators (KPIs) to industry benchmarks, the time is now. Your current 25-minute average room turnover may feel like a success, but did you know your high-performing competitors average 20 minutes or less? Assuming you and your competitor both run a 24-room OR suite that turns four cases in each room per day, that seemingly inconsequential 5-minute difference gives them a full one-room edge.

Bottom line: Review industry benchmarks to compare your performance.

Learn more: Focusing on patient flow can help drive quality, satisfaction, and savings to your organization.

2. Have you optimized your OR block schedule?

Your block schedule was an asset for your hospital as you grew your surgical program. Over time, it helped you attract new surgeons. Are you still able to add new surgeons to your block schedule? Is your door still open to growing new business? It might be time to re-evaluate blocks — and it’s not just about giving and taking away time. Optimizing block schedules and creating some rooms that are first come, first served can help you squeeze more capacity from your OR.

Bottom line: Don’t let a poorly optimized block schedule hold the last 20% of your prime-time capacity hostage. Make room for your hospital’s future.

Learn more: Learn how to drive sustainable change in your OR.

3. Is your labor productivity management on par?

Efficiency in your OR has a direct correlation to labor dollars. If you’re not starting rooms on time each morning (first case on-time starts), you’re almost surely paying incremental overtime to finish the caseload at the end of the day. Proper room utilization techniques are critical for managing labor. Are the first cases of the day in line with the number of rooms and the number of teams needed to stay productive for a full shift? Pay attention to how your teams are deployed.Bottom line: Compare your OR labor performance against industry productivity benchmarks.

Learn more: Here’s how a multicampus health system reached an ambitious labor productivity benchmark.

We’ve found that the best-performing hospitals operate near 80% prime-time OR utilization.

4. Does your operating room have the right case volume and mix?

Not all 80% utilized OR suites are equal. Just because your OR is busy, it doesn’t mean it’s busy on the right things. At the end of the day, case volume is the outcome measure that matters when grading the throughput of an OR. But even this number doesn’t tell you if you have the right case mix. If 50% of your hospital OR capacity is consumed by low acuity, low-margin endoscopy cases while your competitor is enjoying high-margin orthopedic cases, your service line balance may be off.

Bottom line: Develop a strategy to rebalance your case mix.

Learn more: Learn how a large regional hospital gains new insight into root causes for low OR utilization through a data analytics deep dive.

5. Are your nonemployed surgeons loyal?

Private practice surgeons are often the lifeblood of your OR. They bring in a network of referrals and share a financial risk — and reward — with you for providing patient care. As small business owners, their entrepreneurial spirit will drive them to where they can be the most productive. Complacency on your end, however, can push them to seek a better arrangement with your competitor or split cases between multiple facilities.

If your surgeons are currently exclusive, you risk losing part (or all) of their cases to a competitor by not providing adequate case time. If your surgeons split cases between hospitals, giving them more available table time may entice them to bring more business. Are you willing to risk your margin to accommodate your bottom 10% of surgeons instead of cutting ties with them in order to earn exclusivity from your best surgeons?

Bottom line: Consider the impact of every variable — including surgeon loyalty when assessing your OR efficiency and performance.

6. Do you know your market?

Unless you’re on an island, knowing that your OR is consistently running at capacity simply isn’t a telltale sign to build new ORs. Do you know how much of your market you’re capturing? Are you able to capture more, or could the recent increase in market share be attributed to a local competitor who recently experienced negative publicity? Your market analysis shouldn’t only serve to justify your capital investment; it should help you quantify the financial impact of alternative risk-based scenarios.

Bottom line: Don’t invest in new ORs without being 100% sure that you have a deeper understanding of your market than your competitors.

Assess your OR performance

Do you understand all the variables that are affecting OR efficiency, and are you getting the most out of your surgical suite? Is your OR consistently performing well against industry benchmarks? What areas can you improve to run more efficiently?

We can help assess the efficiency of your OR so you can make informed decisions and achieve clinical operations excellence.

Take our quick, complementary Operating Room Efficiency Assessment.

Answer four easy questions for a complimentary assessment. Our experts will measure your organization’s performance against industry benchmarks and best practices for efficiency and safety and provide you with a free, custom, data-driven improvement recommendations ViewPoint report.

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