The Role of Health IT in the OR: Aligning Technology With Workflow

Delivery of "the right care in the right place at the right time" has become a well-known phrase in healthcare reform initiatives. This motto has been driving some of the major changes in the industry, such as the push for new coordinated care models like accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes. But what about the "right equipment at the right place at the right time"? This is what Mark Antoszyk, chief CRNA for the Carolinas Medical Center Northeast Health System in Concord, N.C., says is critical in the operating room.

According to Mr. Antoszyk, the OR and IT teams need to communicate more effectively so that new technology in the OR can aid and not hinder efficient workflow. One of the problems, he says, is the disconnect between new technology's compatibility with existing electronic systems and with OR processes. "A lot of times what I see is that a program is purchased because it works with the rest of the system but not necessarily with the workflow of end users [in the OR]," he says.

Details like the placement of computers, for instance, can make significant differences in efficiency measures such as turnover time in the OR. Mr. Antoszyk says at Carolinas Medical Center a computer in the recovery room did not have the same access to a screen as one in the OR, forcing nurses to stay an additional one to two minutes in the OR completing documentation. Providing access to the program outside the OR would avoid slowing turnover time by allowing the nurse to finish inputting information after the current patient is transported out of the OR.

Mr. Antoszyk suggests that OR staff and IT employees discuss workflow issues so the IT department can proactively develop or install technology that aligns with OR processes instead of reacting to delays from misalignment. Communicating early can prevent not only reductions in process speeds, but also in cost. "Identify the workflow [upfront rather than] waiting for users to say 'This isn't working, let's do this.' By that time, you've spent capital money," Mr. Antoszyk says.

Another barrier to well-matched technology and OR workflows is language. Both the OR and IT teams need to become familiar with each other's language so they can more clearly communicate, Mr. Antoszyk says. Overcoming this challenge can allow IT to help OR staff and surgeons maintain or increase efficiencies in the OR.

Related Articles on OR Efficiency:

Using Mobile Devices in the OR to Speed Processes
Answering a Plea for Standardization: How Providence St. Vincent Cut Surgical Order Sets by More Than 95%

Measuring Surgical Outcomes: Are Surgical Objectives Important Enough to Document?

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