Surgical schedules slow to recover even as operating rooms reopen

When the new coronavirus hit US hospitals at the beginning of the year, many institutions halted elective surgical procedures and diverted resources to care for pandemic patients. Now, most operating rooms have reopened their doors, but patient anxiety about coming into contact with COVID-19 is still keeping many away.
Surgical schedules slow to recover even as operating rooms reopen

After pressing pause on elective surgeries earlier this year, the vast majority of hospitals can now go back to operating at full capacity – at least in theory.

Even though most ORs are no longer shuttered, for a host of reasons they’re also not back to business as usual. Chief among them is the fact that many patients express anxiety about going under the knife, even if the procedure could be life changing. Other factors, like administering rapid tests for the coronavirus preoperatively and the additional time needed for surgical teams to don appropriate PPE, have added time on to every case and slowed down surgical workflows, which decreases the number of procedures that can be performed.

For many health systems, surgical procedures are a critical part of achieving financial success. In some cases, they can account for up to 50% of a hospital’s overall revenue. So, when surgical schedules are light, the impacts have a ripple effect throughout an institution.

Adjusting to this “new normal” in surgery is of the utmost importance, but is a daunting challenge. In the best of times, surgical scheduling involves a host of moving parts and players – from the surgeons to the scrub nurses to the administrative staff – and can be difficult to optimize. The good news is there are ways ORs can prepare right now to ease the transition, like introducing virtual waiting rooms and telehealth options for pre- and postoperative care. These creative solutions may ultimately be the key to easing patient anxiety and helping hospitals financially recover from the current crisis.

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