Improving Operating Room Efficiency: Relocating a Surgical Oncology Program Within a Health Care System

Ochsner J. 2022 Fall;22(3):230-238. doi: 10.31486/toj.22.0030.


Background: To meet increased community and regional needs for quality services, our hospital system concluded that its established surgical oncology program-consisting of gynecologic oncology (4 physicians), surgical oncology (2 physicians), and otolaryngologic oncology (2 physicians)-would be best served by the transition of the comprehensive surgical oncology program to a new oncology-naive hospital. We describe the overall strategy and approach involved with this move, its implementation, operating room efficiency results, and physician satisfaction associated with the relocation. Methods: The purpose of the systematic plan for relocation, which was developed and refined during the 2 years preceding the move, was to facilitate a collective awareness and understanding of important patient-centered concepts and essential workflow. All parties involved in direct patient cancer care participated in multiple workgroups to successfully transition the surgical oncology practice. Following the transition to the oncology-naive hospital, components of the operative cases and surgical data were prospectively collected for the initial 6 weeks and compared to retrospective data from the last 8 weeks at the established hospital. The surgical day for each surgeon was deconstructed, and measured variables included total surgical cases, total surgical hours, surgical minutes per case, total anesthesia hours, first case on-time surgical starts, surgical stretcher wheels out to surgical stretcher wheels in, surgical stretcher wheels out to next case start, case end to postanesthesia care unit (PACU), and case end to case start. Results: Five hundred twenty-nine surgical cases encompassing 1,076 anesthesia hours and 710 surgical hours were completed during the 14-week evaluation period. The gynecologic oncologists completed the majority of surgical procedures in both settings. The percentage of first case on-time surgical starts initially decreased during the 6-week interval at the oncology-naive hospital, but interval subset analysis suggested a return to the pre-move norm. Surgical stretcher wheels out to surgical stretcher wheels in had a wide range (9 minutes to 305 minutes) for all surgical sections, but no statistically significant difference was seen overall or for any surgical section. Case end to PACU significantly increased for gynecologic oncology but not for surgical oncology or otolaryngologic oncology. Overall case end to case start times decreased nonsignificantly (63.7 ± 3.1 mean minutes vs 60.3 ± 1.7 mean minutes) following the move. A physician survey found that physicians' expectations were met in terms of the move occurring smoothly without major issues, surgical scheduling and accommodation, anesthesia services, and surgical personnel. Physicians indicated less satisfaction with quality and availability of instrumentation. Conclusion: The transfer of established surgical oncology services to an oncology-naive hospital was associated with early surgeon and operating room staff support, as well as process and programmatic alignment among stakeholders. The success of this transition required transparency, open and honest communication, and problem solving at all levels. The move of a surgical oncology program to an oncology-naive hospital was deemed successful without deterioration of time-related variables associated with operating room efficiency and physician satisfaction. The breakdown and analysis of key components of the surgical day offered additional opportunities for quality improvement in operating room efficiency.

Keywords: Efficiency; operating room; professional burnout; quality improvement; surgical oncology.