EMERGING HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY TRENDS: #6 Orchestrating Operating Room Efficiency

As we continue to look at the emerging healthcare industry trends for 2021, we turn this week to how new health tech is helping to better orchestrate surgical teams in the operating room. By increasing efficiency and reducing cognitive load for surgeons and other operating room personnel, this trend positively impacts patient outcomes and clinicians’ surgical capacity and quality of care.

Healthcare is a continuous, ever-evolving industry, but never more so than in the past year. The COVID-19 health crisis has served as a catalyst, accelerating trends as new technologies come to quickly realize them, changing attitudes and expectations for care. Check back in on this blog series in the forthcoming weeks as we continue to explore these trends and what they mean for the healthcare industry as a whole.

What is Operating Room Efficiency?

In the operating room, time is money, literally: each minute of downtime can cost hospitals up to $133. Everything from delayed starts to errant equipment, prolonged cases to paying staff overtime is all standard in the daily running of an operation room. But, as healthcare technologies improve, inefficiencies have the potential to be addressed and even eliminated. Digital tools offer hospitals and surgery centers the ability to better coordinate the intricate movements of surgical teams and their resources, provide greater visibility and control over all aspects of the operating room, minimize downtime, and improve patient outcomes.

The key drivers of this trend are:

–      Value-based payment methodologies: the rising cost of care means that every minute in the operating room matters, further accelerating this trend.

–      Physician shortage: with limited resources comes a greater need for efficiency, and as the physician shortage grows, operating rooms need to become more strategic about how they’re putting their talent to use.

–      Aging population: The US currently has 46 million adults over the age of 65, and that number is expected to grow to almost 90 million by 2050. This aging population will have a much higher demand for surgical intervention, resulting in a greater need for surgical efficiency.

–      Internet of things (IoT) connectivity: As devices are increasingly able to “talk” to one another, they’re able to sync and automatically adjust workflows and streamline tasks, taking the burden off operating room doctors and staff.

Why Operating Room Efficiency Matters

Better coordinating teams, equipment, and schedules can help reduce downtime and increase efficiency, allowing more patients to be treated faster. But with so many moving parts and people and equipment resources involved, there are significant roadblocks to orchestrating the entire operating room. THRIVE recently collaborated with Intuitive Surgical to help create an operating room “Vision of the Future,” with a sharp focus on efficiency where care is more connected, customized, and intelligent for hospitals, care teams, and their patients. 

Opportunity: Improved efficiencies through increased OR functionality and reliability

Large medical device and service companies are beginning to offer comprehensive operating room solutions that integrate all the equipment, technology, visualization, and data integration that go into surgery in an attempt to stake a claim to vertical integration in the OR. These single-manufacturer systems can drive operating room efficiency, streamline data handoff, and improve the surgical experience, but they also have a significant drawback of acting as “closed ecosystems,” meaning they don’t mix and match with other suppliers.

With so much advanced new and emerging technology, operating rooms are becoming increasingly cluttered by large medical devices. Paring down the number of devices helps to remove obstacles, and in turn, increase efficiency. In this way, integrated ORs can yield significant time savings, but further study is needed to determine whether it increases efficiencies. In any case, time saved in any capacity is a substantial benefit in its own right.

In keeping with this vision of the optimal integrated OR, companies like Steris HexavuePhilips Azurion, and Stryker offer both hybrid and fully integrated OR solutions that offer providers the ability to view real-time OR schedules, access and share media, view OR imaging, support remote surgical video, locate equipment, check system health, and more.

Opportunity: Better surgical insight with increased operating room coordination

Efficiency and predictability are necessary for ensuring good patient outcomes and a sustainable, profitable business model for hospitals as the complexity of procedures increases. From coordinating schedules to managing tasks, digital solutions are emerging to advance the way that ORs are managed, lessening the burden on surgeons and staff alike. By 2025, digital surgical tools are expected to reach a global market size of $4.4 billion — assuming all the surgical teams are equipped with smartphones or tablets. 

So much of hospital logistics rely on getting both patients and providers to the right place at the right time, which can be a challenge as procedures are bumped into overtime and schedules become stressed and scrambled. Limiting downtime, though, is the key to ensuring operating room efficiency and profitability, so scheduling software like SurgimateCaseTabs, and Picis offer solutions to coordinating workflows and scheduling surgeries.

Surgimate App: Charge Capture App & Surgical Schedules | Surgimate

In addition to keeping up with ever-shifting schedules, emerging technologies are also helping OR teams respond proactively to task management. Digital solutions like ScrubIt and Explorer Surgical focus on pre-op preparation task flows, and it’s easy to imagine that this type of task management will expand to new roles and other intra- and post-op procedures.

Let THRIVE Help You Keep a Pulse on the latest Healthcare Industry Trends

Healthcare trends are in flux more than ever before, with the past year serving as a catalyst to hasten certain technologies and inevitabilities. To stay up to date on these industry trends, keep checking back in on this series as we explore emerging trends in healthcare, and make sure to check out our previous blogs for info on the trends we’ve covered so far.

THRIVE has years of experience as an expert healthcare technology consultant. We would be happy to discuss how we can help you respond to the healthcare industry’s shifting trends so that you can protect your business now and into the future. Contact THRIVE today.


If you missed any of the previous posts in this blog series on the future trajectory of healthcare, you can find them here:

Week 1: The Shifting Point of Care
Week 2: The Hyper Personalization of Care
Week 3: Expanding the Continuum of Care
Week 4: Patient Empowerment
Week 5: Physician Empowerment
Week 7: Human-centered Healthcare Design
Week 8: Improving Medical Device UX Design
Week 9: Improving Contextual Design & Cognitive Empathy
Week 10: Enhanced Data Visualization Tools
Week 11: The Increasing Prevalence of Robot-Assisted Surgery
Week 12: Behavioral Design for Medical
Week 13: Humanized Patient-Provider Interactions

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