Two new studies presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY 2013 annual meeting suggest that improving the late starts to the first surgical case of the day can potentially lead to reduced costs and increased patient and staff satisfaction. Additionally, greater number of cases can be performed daily.
"In 2011, fewer than half of the first cases of the day started on time," said Sophia van Hoff, M.D., of Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, N.H. "While this was not unique to our hospital, it led to dissatisfaction for both patients and staff. Correction of these delays was targeted as a high priority improvement project."
To achieve this improvement, Dartmouth Hitchcock chose the Rapid Process Improvement Workshop (RPIW) to address the problem. The RPIW team spent five days assessing barriers to prompt first-case starts and redesigned the workflow of patient preparation.
"At the start of the day, operating room (O.R.) managers know at what time and how many surgical cases are expected that day, and how long they should take. Any deviation from the planned schedule disrupts the entire schedule and chances are that administrators will spend the rest of the day playing catch up," said Vikram Tiwari, Ph.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology and director of surgical business analytics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
The Dartmouth study improved first-case on-time starts after 16 weeks to 75 percent. Dartmouth then instituted a daily communication to any caregiver associated with a delayed room, and on-time starts rose further, to 82 percent. The average delay decreased from 7.2 minutes to 4 minutes.
This improvement was created by instituting nine key workflow changes. For example, on the day of surgery, certain teams were given authority for specific windows of time in the hour prior to the case starting. O.R. nurse visits were implemented as the first task, rather than occurring just prior to patient transport. Paperwork and testing were completed prior to the day of surgery, and anesthesia teams were no longer required to ask the O.R. for permission to enter the room if it was after 7:20 a.m.
The Vanderbilt study improved first-case on-time starts to more than 70 percent from less than 50 percent. The median delay time was reduced to two minutes from five minutes. The improvements were a result of several factors, including daily meetings or "huddles," increased communications among caregivers and the hiring of a new administrative director. The efficiency improvements initiated during the process redesign have been sustained even after the expiration of the incentives, indicating that the new process is working. This is especially encouraging as it shows a potential way of aligning resources to collaborate on shared goals, said researchers.
The Dartmouth case study estimated that an improvement to greater than 80 percent on-time starts would result in increased patient and staff satisfaction and nearly $2 million a year in combined cost saving in overtime pay, additional cases and increased revenue.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists
Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 50,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.
For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at asahq.org. To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit