Flexible block management helps health systems get a handle on OR schedules and service lines

Perioperative leaders focus on structuring block schedules by surgeon or service line to maximize use of operating rooms.

But most approaches pigeonhole organizations into a one-size-fits-all approach for managing blocks that doesn't align with surgeons' needs, departmental priorities, or changing circumstances, leading to financial repercussions and dissatisfied surgeons and staff.  

In a May webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Hospital IQ, three healthcare leaders with extensive knowledge of block operating models discussed solutions to block scheduling. They focused on why health systems need the right systems and methods for managing blocks now more than ever. The session spotlighted the journey to operational performance improvement by Medical University of South Carolina, an academic medical center that faced the same challenges of many others, limited visibility into real-time data and lack of trust in the data that is available. The discussion reviewed methods to overcoming operational obstacles without major disruption by establishing a single source of truth, presented by:

  • Shawn Sefton, RN, chief nursing officer and vice president for clinical solutions, Hospital IQ
  • David Zaas, MD, CEO and chief clinical officer of Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Health, Charleston division
  • Ben Sperling, vice president for enterprise intelligence solutions, Siemens Healthcare

Four key insights:

  1. Health systems are recovering financially from the pandemic with new growth strategies. During COVID-19, MUSC Health continued to expand, opening a hospital and ambulatory surgery center, which provided additional avenues for its 27 surgical service lines.

However, the system struggled with older technologies like dashboards and traditional block utilization metrics. "We realized that we didn't have the tools to manage the logistics, to manage the flow, to really drive the performance we knew our patients demanded," Dr. Zaas said. This included a lack of tools to effectively manage group operating room (OR) time and visibility into performance at the surgeon level.

  1. OR scheduling and utilization is one of a health system's most complex tasks. "The OR schedule is where priorities from across the organization converge," Ms. Sefton said. "We're seeing systems that now have more and more complexity as priorities converge - as we saw at MUSC — of trying to produce an OR schedule."
  1. Digital transformation has a major impact on the ability to maximize OR utilization. “Digital transformation has many facets,” Dr. Zaas said, “from the patient journey to the caregiver experience to driving efficiency and value.” MUSC needed the automated insights that digitization provides to drive action. This included streamlined processes for OR time allocation and blockholder performance management, operational data to unify decision making among leadership, and accessible insights for business agility. MUSC's project with Hospital IQ addressed all of these needs, with a primary focus on efficiency, value, and reducing the total cost of care.

The health system has introduced Hospital IQ's solution across 14 service lines. Dr. Zaas pointed to orthopedics as a strong example of success that has already been realized. "In less than three months, they released 650 block hours and developed trust by knowing they would create time for others, and they would be part of this community rather than focusing on just their own silo," he said.

  1. Dynamic block management is the future of OR scheduling. Hospital IQ allows hospitals to dynamically manage capacity, prepare their staff, and remove operational silos. Critical to that is having transparency and trust in the data that's behind the system, so that departments and service lines know the solution helps them drive toward their goals.

Hospital IQ provides  solutions to help organizations navigate through both typical and atypical scenarios. This includes reclaiming unused time and promoting and redistributing available time.

MUSC Health's experience with Hospital IQ shows that powerful solutions exist for improving block management practices, and these solutions yield significant operational and financial benefits.


To watch a replay of the webinar, click here.

To register for upcoming webinars, click here.

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