Optimizing anesthesia coverage for your hospital: Harnessing the power of AI and predictive analytics to match supply with demand

Matching operating room (OR) supply and demand and ensuring adequate anesthesia coverage without underutilizing resources are two of hospitals' toughest challenges in the perioperative space.

During a March Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by LeanTaaS, two managers for iQueue, the company's software solution that supports optimized OR block scheduling, presented on this subject. Tyler Baker, product implementation manager, and Austin Trout, senior product implementation manager, discussed how AI-powered technology can help surgery centers align anesthesia coverage with operational efficiency.

Four key takeaways were:

1. Demand for anesthesia coverage requires providers to be present during OR downtime. This is because hospitals perform procedures outside of the OR that also require anesthesia, such as interventional radiology, and must ensure call coverage in other non-OR cases. Yet, anesthesia-related reimbursement covers only time spent treating patients and so can be insufficient to cover provider salaries given downtime, let alone any overhead costs.

2. Minimizing OR downtime involves identifying opportunities to improve OR utilization. Better matching of demand (unpredictable) and supply (fixed) of OR time is critical here. "Despite demand volatility, most hospitals use a static block management system that assumes some level of predictability," Mr. Trout said. "This leads to situations where [surgeons] who have block time don't always need it, while [surgeons] who need access don't always have a way to obtain it."

In particular, scheduled downtime — time that OR block owners are not planning to use but have not released — contributes to more than 50 percent of unused time. Limited visibility into OR schedules and low accountability for OR block utilization further contribute to underutilization.

3. Creating a single source of truth and repurposing unused time are essential to optimizing block time utilization. LeanTaaS's iQueue platform increases visibility and accountability by centralizing system-wide OR data into a single dashboard, standardizing metrics and enabling a "push, not pull" reporting culture. The platform provides near-real-time insights into occupied ORs, staffing levels, daily OR utilization metrics and the volatility of supply and demand for surgery overall.

Using these data and insights, hospitals can "recover" unused OR block time and repurpose it by scheduling OR cases based on surgeons' actual OR block utilization patterns. "[Organizations] can set the parameter for what they deem repurposable time," Mr. Baker said. "You can specify, 'We want to go after three- and four-hour chunks of time because we can't really account for small gaps between cases.'"

4. Proactive OR block release reminders complete the cycle of opening OR time. By leveraging AI, iQueue detects OR historical booking and utilization patterns by surgeon and alerts clinic schedulers via email or text message to proactively release time that is unlikely to be used.

Surgery centers that use iQueue have seen improvements in patient experience due to efficient scheduling, surgeon engagement due to better access to OR-related data and transparency, and OR utilization due to better control over utilization metrics. Mr. Trout said that's what happens "when everyone is working off of the same sheet of music."

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