The scheduling of surgical cases in the Operating Room (OR) is a complex process that, if done inefficiently, can negatively affect patient satisfaction, staff satisfaction, costs, and the overall hospital. OR leaders need to construct a schedule that leaves physicians satisfied and that responds to the requests of surgical beds.
OR scheduling is a multifaceted process where surgeon and staff resources, patient readiness, updated supplies and equipment, and room availability must be coordinated to obtain successful outcomes. Under-utilizing surgeons can have negative effects on a hospital. Patient care as well as profits is affected by how fast surgeons can get patients through the OR process. Unavailable OR times and inaccurate and delayed start times lead to fewer surgeries performed in the facility which leads to lost revenue throughout the entire organization, not just in the operating room.
Optimal OR scheduling should consider the types of procedures to be performed, the allocation of time for each case, and the structuring of cases within the designated time. Delayed surgeons, last minute add-ons, gaps in the schedule, prolonged pre-operative LOS, low employee morale, number of first case demands, and lack of anesthesia coverage are all issues that contribute to an inefficient OR schedule.
Why Block Scheduling?
The goal of block scheduling is to maximize OR capacity by reducing the amount of vacant OR time. Arranging OR cases in block times for each surgeon has many benefits:
- Surgeons have designated days to perform procedures and are aware of these days in advance so they can make appointments without overlapping into their OR schedule
- Knowing the number of OR rooms allotted to surgeons allows them to plan and assign patients and the surgical team accordingly
- The hospital can easily manage and evenly distribute the workload throughout the week
- A hospital with a good block scheduling system in place will have high surgeon satisfaction, high utilization, and a cost effective surgical department. Staff will be aware of start times and have equipment and supplies in place ready to go so as to not fall victim to tardiness.
Characteristics of a Good Block System
- Accessible to new surgeons
- Segment of block open for emergent and non-block surgeons
- Strong support from Administration
- Standards and restrictions of block policy upheld
- Periodic review of block utilization by surgeon/practice
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