Operating Room Traffic Control

It's likely that your last flight didn't arrive on time. Just wait until you book your surgery.

It's likely that your last flight didn't arrive on time, particularly if you flew United. Just wait until you book your surgery.

Delayed start times in the operating room, one of the most expensive places in a hospital with BIG delayed or unused opportunity costs, are a fact of life for most surgeons and OR staff. Many have tried to fix the problem and some have succeeded. Most have failed. We need a better way. The solutions derive from leading change and creating the structure, systems, and culture to get it right.

Here are some potential solutions:

1. Asset-tracking devices on patients when they arrive.

2. Better management information systems in the OR.

3. Use of social media to educate and inform.

4. Tracking patients the way FedEx tracks packages.

5. A system of incentives that rewards high performance with block and start times.

6. Better team communications tools.

7. Get trained demand managers to run the OR front desk.

8. Educate perioperative service managers.

9. Penalize surgeons and other medical staff who are chronic offenders. Reward those who get it right.

10. Better online preoperative assessment.

Delayed OR start times creates anxiety for patients, wastes money, disrupts follow-on cases as delays cascade through the day, creates staffing problems, and stresses already hassled medical personnel. We can get this right even if United can't.