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Improving Operating Room Efficiency Best Practices using IOT devices

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    Posted in patient care

    Last Updated | November 12, 2021

    Overview: Improve Operating Room Performance through IOT devices?

    Operating rooms are the most important revenue-generating hub for healthcare organizations, with surgical care representing about a third of all healthcare spending.  However, they can also cost the hospital an arm and a leg, with unnecessary or inappropriate costs that can be avoided with effective operating room practices. From the interminable working hours for a significant portion of the healthcare staff to exorbitantly priced medical devices, equipment, and procedures; inefficient operating rooms can financially damage a hospital.

    Technical issues encountered in medical equipment, delays in operation start times, underutilization or overutilization of resources, or fragmentation of data from different devices during surgical procedures can reduce the efficiency of operating rooms. Things like an efficient use of OR time, managed allocation of staff and equipment, minimizing the time required for preparation and induction of anesthesia or preparing room for the next patient, and better scheduling of cases would help to reduce waiting time and patient turnovers.

    Doctors and healthcare staff are forever looking for ways to increase their efficiency, improve workflow and cut costs. By facilitating communication and collaboration and standardizing processes, the introduction of IoT devices in operating rooms is guaranteed to improve outcomes and costs for the health system and patient.

    Top 5 ways to improve operating room efficiency by IoT devices?

    Predictive Maintenance of Cost-intensive Equipment

    Technical issues, such as faulty equipment or sudden breakdown of an important machine, can seriously slow down an operating room and put the patient safety at risk. However, thanks to advancements in IoT, healthcare organizations are able to capture unstructured data transmitted by different connected devices, which can give hospitals analytical insights into the performance of a device under different circumstances. Hospitals no longer need to wait for an MRI to finally crash to know there was a problem. By examining the data transmitted by a device, maintenance staff will know that a specific part is faulty and fix it in a timely manner, so that any issues can be handled in advance of the scheduled surgery. Hospitals will be able to save a fortune through predictive maintenance on all heavily-used expensive equipment. IoT analytics also serve to increase the uptime of CAT-Scans, MRIs, and other heavy machinery, since the transmitted data can reveal the smallest sign of malfunction and enable a repair that stops the machinery from crashing.

    For instance, Bausch+Lomb, the manufacturer of ophthalmic surgical platforms, has developed a surgical dashboard solution that captures, stores and analyzes device-specific data in the cloud. The company is able to view operational and performance data from different devices around the United States, which allows them to detect and respond to technical and service requests made by surgeons and staff promptly and proactively. This proves how the use of IoT contributes to greater surgical efficiency and minimize down-time in operating rooms due to technical failures.

    Eliminate Inefficient Equipment Processes

    By tracking and monitoring data transmitted from various connected medical devices used in surgery, healthcare organizations can drive key insights, such as the performance of various devices under different circumstances, how long the surgery took place, which surgeons performed the best and even detect surgeons who needs to be more formally trained. Training surgeons to use equipment better results in significantly improved outcomes for patients and improve operating room efficiency.

    Reducing Medical Errors in Surgery

    When the medical devices and equipment in an operating theater can communicate constantly, they transmit and share big data concerning the progress of the operation and the patient’s condition, which can then be analyzed on a bigger scale to improve the precision and safety of the surgical procedure.

    Instead of operating each medical equipment and machinery separately, IoT allows surgeons comprehensive access to devices and instruments used in surgical procedures. Data collected by the devices can be displayed for all medical staff present in the theater simultaneously so that everyone is on the same page. For instance, when the surgeon makes an incision with an electric scalpel, the monitor displays the area cut. If there is even a remote chance of the surgery affecting a patient’s body in the aftermath of the operation, the system displays warning data, thereby reducing medical errors.

    Track Surgeon Utilization 

    Most hospitals still use block scheduling for surgical cases which sometimes results in inefficiencies since surgeons may be underutilizing their scheduled blocks and it may be possible to assign more surgical cases to those surgeons. On the other hand, some surgeons may run short on time for some surgical cases beyond their assigned time blocks, which can cause a delay in the next surgical procedure. With the help of IoT, hospitals can track equipment and resource utilization to track how well surgeons are utilizing their time blocks and whether any changes to the operating room schedule are needed.

    Assisted Surgeries

    Robotic-assisted surgeries can significantly reduce operating room efficiency, by alleviating the investment in staff training, infrastructure, and equipment management. Not to mention, robot-assisted surgeries can eliminate the possibility of medical errors and reduce operating room time.

    Different Reasons Behind The Under-Utilization of IOT In A Hospital

    If optimum usage is not achieved for the available theatre capacity, hospitals need to investigate the possible causes. The constraints in theatre utilization can stem from many reasons, including:

    Unexpected Surgical Cancelations

    Unexpected cancelations, especially Day of surgery cancelations, of elective surgical procedures spell significant potential losses for hospitals all over the globe. Cancellations can be due to hospital-related inefficacies, such as malfunctioning equipment, prioritizing emergency surgeries, unavailability of required essential staff, surgeons, or anesthesiologists, or patient-related such as patient absenteeism, financial constraints, or inadequate preoperative assessments.

    First-case Start Time

    Ensuring punctuality in the first procedure start time can help improve operating room efficiency and reduce unnecessary costs. Even if the first cases of the day are delayed by as much as 30 minutes, the lag would add up to a major underutilization of the ORs in the long run. First cases are most often delayed due to late patient registration, surgeon/staff unavailability, late patient arrival, and congestion in the preoperative areas.

    Operating Room Turnover

    Operating room turnover time is the time between one patient’s bed leaving the operating room to the next patient’s bed entering it. This period is used to clean the operating room, prepare the necessary equipment and staff for the next procedure.  Prolonged operating room turnover time adds up to the added cost of overtime, wasted opportunity costs for potential revenue, and loss of patient satisfaction.

    Since there are various reasons behind the under-utilization of IoT in a hospital, it’s needless to say that a proper UX healthcare design will help increase the utilization and scalability of IoT devices. For instance, a proper UX will reduce the chances of communication errors; turnover will improve, opportunity costs will be saved, and patient satisfaction will be enhanced.

    How Can Operating Room Turnover Time Be Improved Using IOT?

    In research, simply reducing the OR turnover time from 37 to 14 min, resulted in saving 70 min of operating room time and an estimated ROI of $19,500 more daily. One proposed solution to reduce turnover times in OR is to have an integrated OR timer app show both the total allotted time and the remaining time.  This can be attributed to the staff being more aware of time, what needs to be done, reasons for the turnover delay, etc.

    Another factor that affects the turnover time is the availability of the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). If there are no beds available in the post-anesthesia care unit, the patient will not be able to leave the OR on time. Predicting the length of time required in the post-anesthesia care unit for each type of procedure, with the help of IoT, can help in scheduling PACU units beforehand for better efficiency.

    How Do You Reduce Operating Room Delays Using IOT Medical Devices?

    According to research, as many as 65 percent of OR patients arrive late to their appointment, owing to a lack of awareness and preparation prior to surgery. The proposed solution is to implement an end-to-end patient portal that facilitates effective communication between patients and healthcare organizations, from the time they make their appointment to when they have fully recuperated. This platform can be used to send reminders to patients to make their appointments or relevant information, and improve patient activation in their own care. Limited staff availability also contributes to OR delays on any given day.  Automated communication systems save healthcare staff vital time by helping patients better understand their appointment times and pre-and post-surgical guidelines without engaging in verbal communication. Automated guidelines win over verbal information exchange at discharge since they can be easily referenced at home.

    It also happens sometimes that a surgical procedure is delayed because the lab reports did not reach the doctor on time, the housekeeping didn’t know that surgery was over and it was time for OR cleaning, a transport boy failed to deliver the required equipment on time, or the ward nurses got involved with critical patients and neglected to release the patient who was scheduled for surgery. Therefore, we can safely venture to say that the collaboration of multiple people, be it, surgeons, nurses, ward boys, or even housekeeping staff who are part of the OR, defines the success of the OR. The use of medical software, designed by Folio3 Custom medical software Development Company, & healthcare app development would develop a culture of clear communication, accountability, and respect.

    How Is Operating Room Utilization Measured?

    OR utilization can be defined as the sum of the time it takes to perform each surgical procedure (including preparation of the patient in the OR, anesthesia induction, and emergence) plus the total turnover time, divided by the time available.

    IOT: How Do You Increase Operating Room Utilization?

    Operating room utilization can never be measured accurately due to inadequate estimation of case duration leading to both under and overutilization of operating room time. Relying on surgeons to predict the case duration time is a highly inefficient method, since about 75% of the time, surgeons will inaccurately predict the case length. Even for common operations, each patient is different, and the actual time for a given operation cannot be predicted. This is where IoT-enabled devices and machine learning come into play. By combing the available patient demographic data, pre-surgical milestones, and hospital logistics available through Folio3 EHR/EMR integration, machines can improve scheduling accuracy and OR utilization.

    IoT is enabling the emergence of smart solutions for case scheduling, with real-time block requests and releases. If a surgeon finishes a surgery before their allotted time is up, they can release the block time via an online scheduling system, making it available for other surgeons to use. Physicians also receive reminders to release blocks that they are unlikely to use. Such dynamic & real-time updates enable effective allocation of blocks and improve overall utilization.

    Current Issues In Operating Theatres For The Implementation Of IOMT?

    Critical security challenges must be addressed to make the most of IoT for Operating rooms. IoMT devices are constantly collecting sensitive and personal patient data, which is protected by HIPAA and other regulations. As such, this data can fall into the wrong hands if proper security measures are not implemented. At least 82 percent of healthcare organizations have experienced a breach in their IoT devices. In addition to a potential breach of privacy, other challenges faced by ORs in the implementation of IoMT include:

    • Global Regulatory compliance
    • Unauthorized access to centralization
    • Connectivity and power dependence
    • Expensive to implement


    The role of connected medical devices to enhance Operating room efficiency?

    Connected data helps ensure the performance of multiple OR technologies and devices. Previously, technical support teams had no way of uncovering device problems until they are reported from the field by the users, by which time, the faulty device would have cost the hospital millions of dollars in malfunction. Adding remote device connectivity helps organizations monitor and track the performance of devices in a proactive manner and even resolve many issues remotely. This connectivity helps hospitals reduce downtime, ensure that devices operate at peak efficiency, and minimize surgical delays.

    How to use IOMT for Cost efficiency in the operating room?

    The role of IoMT in reducing OR cost is to prevent equipment malfunction, ensure timely maintenance, reduce surgical delays and OR turnover times, reduce medical errors in surgery, and ensure better OR utilization.

    National average operating room turnover times stats in the USA?

    According to stats, the average OR turnover time in the USA is 30-37 minutes.

    What is the Operating room utilization calculation?

    OR utilization is defined as the actual room time used during a case(s) divided by total free time for a given room.

    How to control Operating room efficiency metrics by connected medical devices?

    Connected medical devices help keep track of room utilization and block utilization, which is often the most vital piece of data we need to improve OR efficiency. Not to mention, IoT also helps to reduce start-time tardiness, case cancellation rate, and recovery room admission delays.

    What is the national average for operating room turnover time in the USA?

    According to stats, the average OR turnover time in the USA is 30-37 minutes.

    Can IoMT devices acquire the data?

    Yes, the IoMT devices can acquire the data and network specifications with the help of 5G network slices. It does that by understanding the unique computation requirements of the medical apps and using HL7 integration APIs.

    About the Author

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