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[Sponsored] Creating Efficiencies in the OR Through the New Normal

Sponsored by Agiliti

Q&A with Casey Branham, CMLSO and surgical division vice president at Agiliti

The past several months have shown that the volatility of COVID-19 will likely continue to disrupt patient volumes and revenue at health systems for quite some time.

To get a better sense of how hospitals have evolved their approach to elective surgical procedures, and what they can do to maximize revenue potential, we spoke with Casey Branham, CMLSO and surgical division vice president at Agiliti, to discuss how operating rooms (ORs) across the country are planning for the weeks and months ahead.

Q: What are some obstacles challenging ORs from running more efficiently in the current environment?

Casey Branham, CMLSO and surgical division vice president Agiliti

A: The biggest challenge we’ve seen as COVID has surged across different regions of the country is how ORs manage the variability in case volumes. ORs have seen significant reductions in case volumes this year, and the pressure is on to drive efficiencies by getting patients through the operating room as safely and quickly as possible. But not every OR has taken care of the little things like “case stacking” by grouping together similar cases. This can save hours of valuable time by limiting OR logistics (set up, tear down, equipment in/out).

We’ve also seen some facilities with low patient census try to find hours for their nursing staff by opting to have those nurses cover cases that involve lasers. This can be risky because medical laser operators are required to be certified for every surgical laser model and the procedure in which it is used. If the nurse isn’t properly certified, this is a major compliance risk and a risk to their license.

Q: How can ORs navigate these challenges right now?

A: As elective procedures increase, hospitals and surgery centers need to fill the gap between the equipment to which they currently have access, and the increased amount of equipment that is needed with higher demand.

With financial constraints on many facilities, purchasing new equipment is probably not feasible. Plus, the reality is that the delivery and installation of new equipment – coupled with staff training – would likely take too long to get up and running. Renting is cost-effective, giving hospitals flexible access to laser technologies – and trained and certified technologists – to handle the ebbs and flows of surgical volume now and in the coming months. Rental fills the gap until hospitals obtain more information to make a good long-term acquisition decision. We don’t really know what tomorrow brings when it comes to COVID-19, but having flexibility with limited capital budgets is likely going to be very important.

For facilities that have enough lasers but not enough certified technicians for all of their cases, it may be a good time to look into technician-only labor to cover any temporary staffing gaps. This allows hospitals to direct nurses to more critical patient areas and can address the long-term challenges hospitals will face as policies evolve regarding how often staff can come in with mild cold symptoms. In these situations, tech-only supplemental labor can act as a stop-gap when hospitals are short on staff.

Q: How can ORs reduce spend while getting the most out of their surgical lasers and equipment?

A: Understandably, cost savings are top of mind for many OR directors. One of the biggest expenses ORs face when it comes to their surgical lasers and specialized surgical equipment – such as endoscopes, ophthalmic, endo/lap, etc. – is the maintenance and repair of that equipment. Independent service organizations (ISOs) can provide the same quality service as manufacturers while offering meaningful cost savings. Plus, because some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have reduced the size of their service teams due to the pandemic, many facilities are experiencing significant PM backlogs. This is an opportunity for third-party vendors to play a bigger role in servicing these devices at the facility level to fill the gap.

Another way facilities can reduce spend is to ensure their owned medical lasers are being utilized across the entire hospital network. Oftentimes, we see a laser sitting idle at one site, while a sister facility nearby needs that same technology,

By utilizing these suggestions and partnering with a quality surgical laser rental and repair provider, hospitals can realize cost savings while meeting the ebbs and flows of variable case demands.

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