By Ashley Walsh, senior director of client services, LeanTaaS.
Elective surgeries were hit hard during the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 70% of elective surgeries in the country were put on hold to free up staff and resources to care for those infected with the virus. While putting elective surgeries on hold was a necessary precaution as most facilities navigated the uncertainty, patients with scheduled procedures had their care disrupted.
Now, as multiple waves continue to afflict the country and as we head into the flu season, hospitals have been actively seeking ways to build agility into their operating room capacity and better handle the elective case fluctuations.
Operating rooms are the economic backbone of a hospital, frequently generating 50% or more revenue for the institution. In fact, a single block of operating room time can generate $50K to $100K or more in net revenue per day, so when it comes to allocating time, every minute is sacred. Despite the unknowns, hospitals that are able to manage optimal surgical capacity despite the volume reductions followed by an influx of backlogged elective cases by having access to the right information and by adapting strategies that make the strongest impact. Let’s dive in.
Get ahead of seasonal and potential patient volume fluctuations
As a first step, providers should ensure that surgical case information is available that illustrates how many elective surgeries had to be pushed or rescheduled as well as how they have historically done during the flu season. The combination of this information will help predict the upcoming winter.
Although there are online tools available to pull these insights, it’s also important to lean on the skills of data science teams to help analyze this vital information. Here are a few important data points providers should have on file to make informed decisions during these uncertain times:
- baseline monthly surgery volume before COVID-19 and the percentage of baseline cases during the pandemic;
- the volume of new cases that you anticipate based on COVID-19 (e.g., surgeries resulting from car accidents have likely decreased because of fewer cars on the road);
- the volume of cases you expect to lose based on people losing their jobs and/or health insurance; and
- historical seasonal fluctuations, particularly during flu season.
Calculate actual surgical capacity
Once you have the project stats on hand, the next step is to consider potential constraints in terms of staffing and available beds in order to calculate true surgical capacity. While doing so, it’s important to consider potential options and workarounds that may be available to expand capacity, whether that be opening up additional operating rooms, staying open for longer hours, having weekend hours and/or even redirecting some procedures to other types of rooms, when possible.