In this prospective study, we evaluated the etiology of operating room (OR) delays in an academic institution, examined the impact of multidisciplinary strategies to improve OR efficiency, and established OR timing benchmarks for use in future OR efficiency studies. OR times and delay etiologies were collected for 94 cases during the initial phase of the study. Timing data and delay etiologies were analyzed, and 2 wk of multidisciplinary OR efficiency awareness education was conducted for the nursing, surgical, and anesthesia staff. After the education period, timing data were collected from 1787 cases, and monthly reports listing individual case delays and timing data were sent to the Chiefs of Service. For the first case of the day, patient in room, anesthesia ready, surgical preparation start, and procedure start time were significantly earlier (P < 0.01) in the posteducation period compared with the preeducation period, and the procedure start time for the first case of the day occurred, on average, 22 min earlier than all other procedures. For all cases combined, turnover time decreased, on average, by 16 min. Unavailability of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and residents decreased significantly (P < 0.05) as causes of OR delays. Anesthesia induction times were consistently longer for the vascular and cardiothoracic services, whereas surgical preparation time was increased for the neurosurgical and orthopedic services (P < 0.05). Identification of the etiology of OR inefficiency, combined with multidisciplinary awareness training and personal accountability, can improve OR efficiency. The time savings realized are probably most cost-effective when combined with more flexible OR staffing and improved OR scheduling.
Implications: We achieved significant improvements in operating room efficiency by analyzing operating room data on causes of delays, devising strategies for minimizing the most common delays, and subsequently measuring delay data. Personal accountability, streamlining of procedures, interdisciplinary team work, and accurate data collection were all important contributors to improved efficiency.