Preparing for the return of elective surgeries

The pause placed on elective surgeries won’t last forever, and neither will this unique opportunity to evaluate current surgical scheduling practices and plan for the future of your operating rooms.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has hit hospitals hard – in more ways than one. Among the unforeseen challenges they now face is the financial hit caused by the cancellation of elective surgeries, which account for approximately 40-50% of hospital revenues. It’s safe to assume that surgical schedulers and hospital administrators will be looking for ways to quickly and efficiently get their operating rooms (ORs) up and running again once it is safe to do so.

Under the best of circumstances, surgical scheduling isn’t easy, as there are a multitude of factors that must be considered to run a successful OR. For example, surgeons’ schedules can be difficult to coordinate if they have patients at multiple hospitals in a system. Adequate time needs to be factored in for cleaning and restocking supplies. And, surgical equipment must be tracked efficiently to avoid unnecessary waste.

While the pandemic has created uncharted territory, there are best practices organizations can put into place to help nurses and surgical schedulers combat the challenges they will face once elective procedures resume. Below are a number of ways hospitals can optimize workflows and increase profitability now in order to prepare for the influx of surgeries to come.

Create a streamlined surgical scheduling dictionary

It’s important to have a healthy scheduling dictionary when taking on the complicated task of scheduling. And now, more than ever, it will be essential for procedures and CPT terms to be coded accurately to secure reimbursements and get money flowing back into hospitals. A streamlined surgical scheduling dictionary will allow schedulers to understand the number of ORs available, how much time needs to be allotted per surgery, staffing and equipment needs, and other critical details.

Pull together the right team

Having the right people in place will be key to ensuring efficiency when rescheduling starts. The team could include the OR director, central scheduling, and potentially some of the surgeons themselves. There will be a lot of work to do to get patients back in the OR, and everyone can play an important role. Hospitals will also need to assess staffing to determine if nurses or others typically assigned to the OR have been reassigned or temporarily furloughed and need to be called back.

Manage the details

A point person should be assigned to reach out to patients to reschedule their surgeries, prioritize patients with greater needs, and obtain reauthorization for health insurance where required. Additionally, patients will likely have to redo their preoperative history and physical (H&P), along with any relevant laboratory and radiological testing. Usually, this information must be gathered within 30 days of surgery.

Determine supply needs

Given the various supply chain issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there are likely to be shortages in other areas that impact the OR. In order to avoid further delays, it will be important to ensure adequate supply levels when elective surgeries start up again.

Keep an eye on the clock

Many hospitals use block utilization to understand how much time is needed to schedule surgery in available rooms. The more precise an OR can be with its time averaging of procedures, the more efficiently these blocks of time can be used.

The road back to business as usual may prove long and complex, but putting detailed processes in place now will help chart the right course for hospitals to thrive. To learn more, watch our on-demand webinar, “Streamlining your surgical workflows for better financial outcomes.”

To find out how IMO can help optimize your OR, click here.

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