For hospitals with a large number of operating rooms, organizing and managing activity throughout the day can be a complex undertaking. In the time leading up to the day of surgery, the schedule solidifies into an organized sequence of cases in each room with an associated number of simultaneous “rooms running” and staff required at any given time. However, the way things actually turn out in the OR day-of can be quite different from the planned schedule. Managers must scramble to adapt by shuffling cases around and potentially asking staff to stay later than expected if the number of rooms running later in the day will be greater than what was originally planned.

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These day-of changes to the schedule can occur for multiple reasons:

  • Delays: When cases start late, this tends to increase the number of rooms running toward the end of the day. Cases can be delayed by previous cases that ran late, or other factors such as patient issues or equipment readiness.
  • Long-running cases: Even if they start on time, long-running cases tend to increase the number of rooms running later in the day, either by pushing forward any following cases or extending the end of the day if they’re the last case in a given room for the day.
  • Add-ons: Cases that weren’t on the schedule when the day started but were added day-of (for example, urgent or emergency cases) usually require additional rooms to run relative to the original plan.

When these schedule-shifting events occur, OR managers have to act as both Tetris-player and soothsayer, moving cases between rooms and/or times of day in an attempt to minimize delays and excess rooms running, while simultaneously predicting how many rooms will be running later in the day based on what’s happened thus far. This can be a difficult and complicated task, requiring significant time and cognitive resources, as most of the existing tools managers use to help them manage the day can only tell them what’s already “on the board,” not make predictions about how up-to-the-minute changes will affect things later in the day.

At Hospital IQ, we saw an opportunity to leverage our predictive capabilities to help make the shape-shifting nature of the OR an easier problem to manage. We developed a dashboard that gives a birds-eye view of today’s OR activity, providing visibility and communication on the state of the OR now and in the future. This comes to life by answering one of the most common questions an OR manager has on any given day: “How many rooms will be running at X o’clock?” This is done by monitoring many attributes of ongoing cases including the progress of every case, and allows us to identify unexpected delays, long-running cases, and add-ons that change today’s plan. This birds’ eye view can greatly enhance OR managers’ ability to quickly assess and adjust to changes in the schedule, enhancing flow and thereby facilitating a better working experience for staff and a better service experience for patients.

Organizing and managing operating room activity can be a constant stream of changes and delays without the right data. While hospitals have access to the data that can help resolve these problems, most don’t have to tools to help them visualize it. At Hospital IQ, we understand the value of maximizing the knowledge you can gain from the data you already have by being able to use it in new ways to not only improve hospital operations, but patient care across the board.

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