Preference cards 101: The key to maximizing OR utilization

If you’ve ever had surgery – even a minor procedure – you’re likely familiar with many of the moving parts that make the operation run smoothly. But you may not know how preference cards guide the successful setup of your surgical procedure. We explain the basics of how these cards help ensure the best OR utilization below.
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OR utilization

What are preference cards?

Preference cards are catalogues of the specific tools, supplies, and room setup that a surgeon prefers to use for a particular type of surgical case.

Why are preference cards used?

Preference cards help ensure that when a surgeon begins a case, everything she needs to operate is in the correct room, easily accessible, and sterile – ready to go for the procedure at hand.

How do preference cards work?

While preference card information used to be stored on actual, physical notecards, today they are often electronic. Surgeons specify the required items for each specific surgical case they perform, and this information is entered onto the card. The surgical team then ensures these supplies are available and set up in the correct operating room before the surgeon and patient enter.

Who uses preference cards?

Typically, all attending surgeons will have preference cards on file at the institutions where they have surgical privileges.

What happens if preference cards are wrong or outdated?

When they have outdated or incorrect information, preference cards can become a catalyst for a host of hospital ills. In the operating room, missing materials cause surgeon frustration; lead to inefficiencies and delays in cases; disrupt OR utilization; and create waste – costing the health system money at each pain point along the way.

What type of information is included on a preference card?

A preference card should list all of the specific tools, supplies, and setup needed for a case, according to each surgeon’s requirements. Typical information includes:

  • Glove size and type.
  • Necessary equipment, supplies and instruments for the procedure.
  • Types and quantities of each suture needed.
  • List of required dressings.
  • Any specific patient positioning needed during the procedure.

Each different type of case requires a different preference card for each surgeon.

How can accurate, updated preference cards help a health system as a whole?

Surgical cases can account for up to 50% of a health system’s revenue – but wasted time and supplies can easily eat into those profits. Preference cards are the glue that holds the OR together. They ensure that the right tools are in the right place, at the right time, for the right case. This decreases poor OR utilization, which increases revenue, and that’s a win for everyone.

Want to know more about how surgical scheduling can help improve your OR utilization? Learn about IMO Core Periop here.
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