Improving on-time surgical starts: the impact of implementing pre-OR timeouts and performance pay

J Surg Res. 2017 Nov:219:222-225. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2017.05.092. Epub 2017 Jun 30.


Background: Operating room (OR) time is expensive. Underutilized OR time negatively impacts efficiency and is an unnecessary cost for hospitals. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of a pre-OR timeout and performance pay incentive on the frequency of on-time, first surgical starts.

Methods: At a single Veterans Affairs Medical Center, we implemented a pre-OR timeout in the form of a safety-briefing checklist and a modest performance pay incentive for on-time starts (>90% compliance) for attending surgeons. Data were collected on all first-start cases beginning before implementation in 2008 and continued through 2015.

Results: Each year, an average of 960 first starts occurred across nine surgical divisions. Before implementation of either the timeout or pay incentive, only 15% of cases started on time, and by 2015, greater than 72% were on time (P < 0.001). Over the study period, there were significant improvements in on-time starts (P = 0.01), of delays <15 min (P = 0.01), and of delays 16 to 30 min (P = 0.04). The trends for delays of 31 to 60 min or >60 min were not significant (P = 0.31; P = 0.81). Assuming a loss of 7 min per case for delays <15 min and 20 min per case for delays of 16 to 30 min, the total OR time saved from implementing these measures was 37,556 min. At an estimated cost of $20/min, gross savings from this project were $751,120.

Conclusions: Implementation of a pre-OR timeout and performance pay for on-time starts significantly improves OR utilization and reduces unnecessary costs.

Keywords: Incentive Pay; Operating Room Costs; Operating Room Delays; Operating Room Efficiency; Operating Room Utilization; Timeout.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Operating Rooms / economics
  • Operating Rooms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Time Out, Healthcare*