Make Surgery Less Frightening and Frustrating with Real-Time Data

Heidi Bell

No matter what the procedure, going under anesthesia and having surgery is scary. As a nurse, I’ve seen so much fear in the eyes of patients and their family members as they arrive for surgery. One of the most important jobs we as nurses have is to ease those fears as much as we can. This is more difficult when surgical patients have to come in many hours before their scheduled start times, only to wait – often alone – for the doctor to arrive.

Without Hard Data Our Improvement Ideas Stalled

I remember working with my former colleagues – frequently brainstorming on ways we could make the pre-op process more efficient and predictable so we could cut down on extended, anxiety- and frustration-creating wait times for patients and families. The challenge we had is we knew intuitively there were ways we could cut out waste time and make processes more predictable and manageable – but we didn’t have any hard data to back up our theories. And since it wasn’t easy to get the time and resources to complete a statistically valid time and motion study, our process improvement ideas often didn’t go very far.

I have since found research conducted at health systems that points to common sources of wait time for surgical patients. For example, in a paper entitled, “Optimizing Operating Room First Case Start Times: A Systems Improvement Approach,” by Porsche Priscilla Bennet[1], it was cited that 73% of patient’s pre-op time is spent waiting (for the surgical wing and “short stay” procedures studied). The research goes on to show that inefficient and inconsistent manual processes often are the cause of excess waiting. This seems about right to me – not that patients have to spend so much time waiting, but that nearly three quarters of their pre-op time is spent waiting for the next prep step to be done.

With Location Data We Can Solve the Underlying Problems

I’m very happy to say I now know how we can solve our data problems, and greatly reduce excessive wait times – using automatically collected location data.

How it Works:

When surgical teams and surgical patients wear small badges embedded with locating technology, timestamp data is automatically collected. By looking at detailed workflow reports, surgical teams can see patterns and outliers and then work with their continuous process improvement teams to get to root cause and make necessary changes.

In my current role as Customer Solution Specialist at InSites, I enjoy helping teams start collecting and using this data to help them improve their processes. It’s especially fun for me because I’ve seen firsthand how much it can help minimize the anxiety and frustration that builds up when surgical patients have to wait so long.

[1] BENNETT, PORSCHE PRISCILLA. Optimizing Operating Room First Case Start Times: A Systems Improvement Approach. (Under the direction of Dr. Julie Ivy). A thesis submitted to the Graduate Faculty of North Carolina State University; Raleigh, NC 2016.