Driving surgeon engagement through AI technology

By Ashley Walsh MHA, SVP Client Services, iQueue for Operating Rooms

Physicians who are highly engaged in the financial and operational performance of their healthcare organization, as well as their own clinical spheres, have proven to be critical stakeholders in transformation initiatives. 


Engaged physicians, inclined to collaborate proactively with colleagues across disciplines and skillsets, support stronger team performance and constant improvement in care delivery and efficiency initiatives. The research covered by “Exploring physician engagement in health care organizations: a scoping review” (BMC Health Services Research, September 2023) shows a trend of “positive organizational and individual outcomes” with subsequent “lower rates of staff turnover and burnout” related to physician engagement, as well as “improved financial outcomes [and] cost savings” across many healthcare settings. For perioperative transformation initiatives, engaging surgeons is especially important to ensure initial buy-in and long-term program success. 

The impact of surgeon engagement on the OR and the health system 

Health systems depend on ORs running at peak efficiency and capacity to maintain profitability, as the OR can account for up to 70% of each hospital's margins per studies by the Healthcare Financial Management Association. Keeping all surgeons engaged on the operational side of OR management will help maximize the capacity of resources like rooms, equipment, and staff for better profitability overall as well as improved access to care.

The Children’s Nebraska health system, for instance, implemented the AI-powered iQueue for Operating Rooms solution in 2021 to drive capacity optimization in a way that also built trust, collaboration, and engagement among surgeons. In one year after iQueue was fully implemented, surgeons showed a 25% improvement in proactively releasing unused block time and a 45% improvement in proactively requesting the time they needed. This clear uptick in engagement was accompanied by a 12% increase in surgical volume overall and 7% increase in prime time utilization, meaning surgical engagement was correlated with a higher caseload being performed more efficiently within preferred hours. 

Results like these unlock patient access to the health system overall, drive higher revenue, and foster an ongoing positive experience for surgeons and other OR staff. Engaging surgeons in the initiatives that produce these results requires a careful and strategic approach. 

Creating stronger surgeon engagement begins by recognizing what creates value for all surgeons

Getting surgeons to buy into operational initiatives can be complicated, as many surgeons are “splitters” who perform cases at multiple institutions and do not necessarily feel affinity for a particular setting. The contributions of both “splitters” and internal surgeons, however, is crucial to the continued optimization and growth of the health system. “Splitter” surgeons tend to contribute a higher caseload due to their flexibility in finding time at multiple health systems. They can show engagement by proactively booking more cases in a given OR. Internal surgeons meanwhile are positioned to foster elevated resource utilization, by being dedicated to improving their own performance metrics such as use of block time. Engaging all surgeons by delivering value for them drives higher volume, efficiency, and in turn value for the health system as a whole.  

To promote engagement among both “splitter” and internal surgeons, hospital and health system leadership must show they understand every surgeons' needs and preferences. A few priorities are common among surgeons regardless of health system affiliation. 

From day-to-day, most surgeons tend to want smooth schedules where their cases can run as planned without delays caused by unavailable equipment or staff. They also want to perform high numbers of cases during their preferred hours, to optimize their compensation, as well as have the opportunity to grow their caseloads and compensation as possible. Finally, surgeons want to use their time productively, either being hands-on with patients or in doing work that has a noticeable impact on providing high quality patient care or their own professional growth.

Technology solutions that support these needs are a low cost way for health systems to promote surgeon engagement and achieve financial and operational results. These can have an extremely high impact if chosen and implemented strategically. 

Capabilities and results of AI-driven technology designed to engage surgeons

LeanTaaS’ iQueue for Operating Rooms solution, powered by AI and automation and implemented through a complimentary change management support team for optimal use by all stakeholders including surgeons, helps ORs make the best possible use of available resources and staff. It is also designed to address surgeons’ common priorities specifically, supporting their vocation while not adding extraneous tasks. 

Leveraging historic data through advanced analytics to predict upcoming case volumes, iQueue for Operating Rooms delivers the information and capabilities surgeons need to maintain efficient schedules, perform more cases for higher compensation, and ensure all their work goes toward the purpose of driving increased patient access and higher revenues for their affiliated organizations. 

iQueue has delivered proven results in driving both surgeon engagement and subsequent financial and operational outcomes for over 90 other health systems besides Children’s Nebraska. For example, all surgeons at The University of Kansas Health System chose to receive personalized performance updates from iQueue, and their 98% increase in proactive manual releases and pre-deadline transfers of surgical time accommodated an 8% increase in case volume. Meanwhile Gundersen Health’s 76% increase in manually released minutes contributed to 8% increases in both prime time and block utilization. 

Strategically empowering surgeons with analytics-driven technology like iQueue enhances their engagement with OR scheduling and efficiency, enabling these financial and operational gains in the OR that translate across the health system. Sustaining this powerful surgical partnership by ensuring technology accords with surgeons’ preferred workflows is key for hospitals to maximize the potential of their economic engine. 

Choosing the right technology to engage surgeons, empower them to drive OR efficiency 

A common pain point for surgeons is undue time spent on documentation, which either detracts from patient care or adds excess working hours to their schedules. Technology like the EHR, which surgeons use for mandatory documentation, often compounds this frustration as it does not provide a clear, streamlined process or user-friendly experience to save time and cognitive burden. This technology also contributes to alert fatigue, as surgeons cannot limit notifications to those that are relevant to them. 

Surgeons are not likely to welcome additional technology solutions that do not function as true tools to support their work days, and are more likely to engage with browser-based interfaces they can access via texts, which provide  capabilities that meet their needs. These include direct access to platforms for releasing or booking optimal block time, and regular actionable notifications, such as block release reminders. 

A solution like iQueue for Operating Rooms provides all these, helping surgeons achieve tangible results like higher numbers of cases performed or improved block utilization and showing clear, useful metrics of progress. This is key to engaging surgeons’ attention and motivation. iQueue’s digital “single source of truth” on optimal scheduling and performance analytics for ORs across the health system also shows surgeons the impact of their choices on the organization, empowering and driving them to deliver higher efficiency as part of the collaborative whole. 

This existing technology has a track record of bolstering surgeon engagement and health system OR performance. Learn more about how health systems have deployed iQueue for Operating Rooms by registering for the Transform Hospital Operations Virtual Summit on December 5-6, or read the full success stories from Children’s Nebraska, The University of Kansas Health System, Gundersen Health and many others here

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