How the University of Kansas Health System used data to improve its surgery block management system

Operating rooms and the clinical staff that use them are among a hospital's most valuable resources. Unfortunately, the complexity of managing block time scheduling for ORs often leads to these resources being underutilized.

In a Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by LeanTaaS, Megan Eubanks, senior director of business operations in perioperative and procedural services at The University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City (TUKHS), and Ashley Walsh, vice president of client services for iQueue for operating rooms and inpatient beds at LeanTaaS, discussed challenges that TUKHS faced, how iQueue helped them address those challenges, the results they achieved and their plans for the future.

Four key takeaways were:

  1. TUKHS faced challenges in managing how block time was assigned and how well that assigned time was used. With 52 operating rooms serving more than 100 hospitals and clinic locations, this academic health system faced a complex challenge of OR utilization and block time management. "We wanted to see block utilization a lot higher than 51 percent, which is where we started our journey," Ms. Eubanks said. "We have historically been dependent on people releasing time, and since we are a Level 1 trauma center, we have a significant number of add-ons. In addition, block utilization doesn't necessarily equal additional capacity." The health system also lacked visibility into available OR time and as well as credible data and policies around block management.
  2. By implementing iQueue, TUKHS laid the foundation for effective block management with transparent data, which increased trust. "We allocate all OR time to our individual services and allow them to manage the assignments within their service including add-on trauma cases," Ms. Eubanks said. "iQueue helped us foster strong communication and processes with our department chairs. For the first time, they had at-a-glance operational data as well as the ability to drill down into the details to understand things like the reasons for a late start or long turnover. And all data was available on a mobile device."

"We now also have the ability to ask our surgeons for prompt release of unscheduled time," she said. "Released time appears on the platform in real time, allowing others to reserve it immediately. In fact, surgeons can put themselves on a waiting list for specific times and get flagged if that time is released."

  1. Within one year, TUKHS realized significant improvements in block time utilization. TUKHS increased its block utilization by 20 percent and volume by 8 percent, despite a 7 percent reduction in available rooms. Proactive releases and transfer of time increased by 98 percent. "Much of the University of Kansas Health System's improvement speaks to how well its service lines are doing in allocating space for trauma, acute care and elective surgeries," Ms. Walsh said.
  2. In the future, the partnership between TUKHS and iQueue will focus on maximizing usable, repurposable block time. "You can't take block utilization at face value because it's just a number," Ms. Eubanks said. "It doesn't tell you exactly how that service or that surgeon is performing."

Ms. Walsh explained that visualization is a good first step, but the next step is to help organizations consume data differently. "We want to see what is truly ‘collectible’ or repurposable," she said. "It can significantly change the way you have those hard, often politically charged, conversations."

TUKHS plans to put this information into the hands of its surgical chairs. "I want them to be able to look at that number from the aspect of what time is truly usable, so they can make decisions on how to reallocate time within their service line," Ms. Eubanks said.

The University of Kansas Health System has successfully increased visibility to reliable data, which has significantly improved its block utilization. This serves as a foundation to build advanced analytics that can further drive smarter decisions and continuous improvement.

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