Managing the operating room block schedule is a both an art and a science. One change has a ripple effect across multiple variables, so it requires meticulous consideration, careful planning, and managing relationships with those impacted by change. Perioperative leaders who find it challenging to mine and analyze data to make informed changes that improve OR utilization and support goals are not alone.

Most perioperative departments typically plan utilization improvement initiatives around metrics that no longer offer the best view of performance. Prime time and block utilization metrics are too broad, with so many influencing variables that make it overwhelming to know how to make impactful changes. First case on-time starts and turnover time are important areas to improve, but often don’t yield enough OR time to add even one case to prime time and do not drive sustainable long-term performance improvement.

Optimize block release lead time

Often, the practice across many hospitals for auto-releasing blocks is 24 to 72 hours in advance as it allows the blockholder ample time to book a case prior to the day of surgery. However, that practice doesn’t leave sufficient time for another surgeon to book into the now opened block.

Predictive analytics tools that suggest strategically releasing time that will likely go unused based on historical behavior helps blockholders improve their own performance metrics, while also giving hospitals ample lead time to fill that block with other cases. Shifting from a 24- to 72-hour lead time to fill an open block to 4-5 weeks is the mark of a high-performing perioperative department.

Increase OR schedule transparency

Filling released blocks is a challenge because OR schedulers don’t have awareness of which surgeons have a case to schedule and surgeons don’t have visibility of available time. But, with a virtual marketplace, finding and requesting open OR time is easy. This is especially helpful to non-blockholders building case volume, but also helps blockholders find time outside of their allocated blocks. When available time is easy to find, it’s easy to request. Making schedule transparency a part of your perioperative culture improves utilization and increased case volume becomes self-sustaining.

Block management in real-time – equip schedulers with efficient tools

Phone calls, spreadsheets, and Post-It notes are inefficient processes for managing requests for time and block releases, but it’s the norm for OR schedulers. When you consider the fact that even notes have gone digital, it might be time to consider more tech-savvy tools to support OR schedulers managing the blocks and the OR schedule.

With an operations management platform, requests for time are organized in a single place and priority ranked with AI to identify the best matches for time based on organization policies and initiatives determined by your perioperative leaders.

Holistic perioperative management

Using digital tools to take a dynamic approach to schedule management makes it much easier to monitor the overlapping variables of the OR block schedule. Perioperative leaders benefit from prescriptive recommendations for block schedule optimization and substantiating block reallocation with data pulled from an accurate, single source of truth.

OR underutilization is common, but it doesn’t have to be. Monitoring the right metrics while using tools to streamline processes, workflows, and access to data, creates a shift to a more dynamic, fluid approach to block schedule management that will drive sustainable change.

Adopting an operations management platform that collects, analyzes, and distributes performance data allows perioperative leaders to focus on leading performance indicators that drive impactful improvement. With these tools, leaders can better measure true operational performance and identify opportunities for improvement.

To learn more about reframing your approach to managing the block schedule, download our resource, Dynamic Block Management.

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