Using Mobile Devices in the OR to Speed Processes

The fast-paced environment of an operating room necessitates quick decision-making skills and easy access to information. Some physicians in the OR are now using mobile devices such as the iPads, iPhones and Android phones and tablets to improve these processes. Claudio Palma, MD, pain management physician at Soma Orthopedics in San Francisco, says using the iPad in the OR has helped speed processes and increase patient safety.

"It has saved me time and saved me from giving patients medications that may cause unwanted side effects," Dr. Palma says. Saving time is critical to OR efficiency. For instance, a study in Surgery found that a delay in OR availability of more than two hours was associated with 39 percent higher costs. Quick access to information — whether a patient's medical record, MRI images or medication interactions — may help physicians reduce turnover time and facilitate the efficiency of the OR. "Using the iPhone/iPad and [the drug reference application] Epocrates [has given me] real-time access to medications, interactions and clinical information in the palm of my hand in the OR," Dr. Palma says.

But what are the downsides of using a mobile device such as the iPad in the OR? Dr. Palma says he had few challenges in using the device but that the support from IT staff was important. OR staff and physicians should also consider the security of data stored on the device. They need to take certain steps, such as encrypting data, that will ensure the security of protected health information. Workflows in the OR may also need to be adjusted when switching from paper charts to a mobile device, Dr. Palma says. While the transition may slow processes initially, over time the devices may help OR staff and physicians optimize their workflows.

Related Articles on OR Efficiency:

Case Study: Improving Hospital Operating Room Efficiency
Hospital ORs Can Improve Efficiency Through Constant, Positive Incentives

Best Practices to Improve Surgical Prep and Patient Draping Time: Q&A With Dr. John Di Capua of North American Partners in Anesthesia and North Shore-LIJ Health System

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