The University of Kansas Health System is based in Kansas City and is an academic medical center with multiple locations throughout Kansas. The health system’s Kansas City operation has 52 operating rooms and performs more than 35,000 cases per year across all service lines.
Growth had been exceeding capacity.
“The health system’s average block utilization was 51%, and we were assigning and using our resources much better than that,” said Megan Eubanks, senior director of business operations in perioperative and procedural services. “As a Level I trauma center, we have a significant number of add-ons, and those can only be accommodated if time is released.
“In the past, we’ve depended on surgeons or services with block time releasing it, which doesn’t always happen,” she continued. “One of our biggest barriers was a lack of visibility into available OR time as well as credible data and policies around block management.”
After reviewing the health system’s workflows and technology, it was clear the organization needed software that focused specifically on solving OR access and utilization concerns, with a vendor that focused on partnership and development, she added.
The University of Kansas Health System turned to health IT vendor LeanTaaS and its iQueue for Operating Rooms software, which is designed to digitize the workflow, streamline scheduling processes and communication, and improve accuracy.
“The digital process leads to fewer delays and more visibility into when block time should be released, ultimately leading to higher surgeon engagement and satisfaction,” Eubanks said. “The platform also provides easy access to real-time data with rich drill-downs, clear visualizations and prescriptive analytics.
“Additionally, the team turned to the vendor to gain access to other key performance indicators and to provide decision makers with easy access to metrics,” she continued. “The vendor would enable the team to identify open time in the OR sooner, show which block owners have excess allocation, and proactively zero in on opportunities for further operational improvement.”
Access to the data, from a “single source of truth” that all stakeholders could trust and rely on, would help the surgical department build structure around block management practices and policies, she added.
“Using these insights, the health system wanted to increase OR utilization, leverage new block reallocation opportunities to recruit surgeons, and improve efficiency in OR workflows,” she said.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
The University of Kansas Health System has leveraged health IT vendor LeanTaaS’ perioperative domain expertise to create appropriate block policies incorporating “collectable time” as the given metric to right-size blocks.
“We put the iQueue for Operating Rooms collect tool into the hands of department chairs, so they can independently manage block allocation and be able to continue improving utilization with their own departments,” Eubanks said. “Additionally, surgeons have access to their own metrics to drive behavior and increase satisfaction.
“The iQueue software integrates with our Epic EHR and provides an additional layer of intelligence,” she added. “It makes our EHR data more visible and actionable through predictions and prescriptive recommendations to optimize capacity and address key operational issues.”
The University of Kansas Health System has been able to increase overall block utilization by 20% total, prime time by almost 5% total, and overall volume by 8% – all with a 7% reduction in available room.
“That indicates we’re using our space much better, which is very important,” said Eubanks. “Then we have a staggering 98% of proactive releases or transfers of time, which is vital to OR access. It’s exciting to see people so much more active in the system.”
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
If other healthcare provider organizations are considering using technology to help manage operational processes around OR access, surgical block allocation and management, and overall utilization and other performance metrics, Eubanks offers the following advice:
Define your goals and objectives clearly. Determine what specific problems you are trying to solve, and what outcomes you hope to achieve. This will help evaluate different technologies, choose the one that best fits your needs, and prioritize your implementation strategy.
Involve key stakeholders. When selecting and implementing new systems, buy-in is key. This includes surgeons, surgical department administration, IT and clinical leadership who will be active daily users. By involving these stakeholders in the process, you can ensure that the system meets their needs and addresses their pain points.
Choose a user-friendly system. The system you choose should provide insights and workflows unique to the user base. Look for a technology that has an easy-to-access interface with intuitive navigation. Keep it simple.
Market and educate early and often. It is essential to help end users understand the “What’s in it for me” behind the selection to ensure buy-in. Do your best to ensure frontline users are comfortable with not only the software but the associated policies and procedures.
Monitor and evaluate performance. Not only of the system, but ensuring that it’s meeting the needs of the goals and objectives set at the beginning of the process. This will also help identify any areas where improvements can be made.
Validate settings and build in the primary system. Software that supports block management functions is supplemental to EHR workflows and provides an enhancement and focus to functionality. It is dependent upon the setting and build already designed in your existing environment. If one piece is off, it can cause damage to the reputation of data in both your EHR and supplemental software.
As for KU, “we aren’t done,” said Eubanks. “There’s more functionality in iQueue to help us use and manage our blocks here, like identifying which underutilized time is truly ‘collectable’ and reusable. I’m excited to really get started on that in the next few months.
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