Technologies Enhancing Operating Room Efficiencies

By Jamie Lipman Published on Jul. 14, 2022

Digital solutions are making surgeries smarter and safer and reducing variability in surgical performance. As surgical procedures become the primary revenue generator in hospitals and healthcare facilities, with one study finding elective inpatient surgeries accounting for 43% of total gross revenue, it's crucial to continue efforts towards efficiency in operating rooms, known as the OR. Learn about the role of new technologies in our operating rooms and how they will generate greater case volume, promote financial success, and improve patient outcomes.

Streamlining hospital workflows through the development of new software systems

New software systems and developments in IT are encouraging hospitals to streamline workflows to improve access to care and increase resources for care teams. The current workflow inefficiencies make it challenging to keep OR schedules on time and ensure patients and providers are at the right place at the right time. Often, these challenges can be anticipated and prevented through technology to track surgeon utilization, prevent delayed start times, streamline surgeon scheduling, increase staff availability, and oversee equipment and instrumentation usage. Companies like Caresyntax are implementing core operating initiatives to work cross-functionally and ensure efficiency amongst all care teams. The company provides integrated data, workflow, and analysis tools to make it easier to identify improvement opportunities in and around the OR.

Many solutions also address workflow deficiencies outside the OR across all hospital departments. Central sterile processing departments (CSPD), which play a critical role in the OR, have often been overlooked and require technological support. CSPD technicians are vital contributors to the OR and prevent infection through sterilizing, processing, cleaning, and distributing medical equipment. Several companies, such as Surgio, are working to build frictionless workflow solutions to enhance efficiency. They do this through real-time management and visibility of surgical instrumentation, maintenance, logistics, and interdepartmental workflow. Startups addressing these pain points increase quality standards, mitigate missing instruments, track trays, and ultimately increase preparedness for the operating room. Implementing platforms like these improve connectivity across all care environments within health care systems.

Meanwhile, other startups are improving operating room practices through speech and motion recognition systems, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, surgical cameras, robots, and more. Surgical departments typically struggle with challenges such as accessing patient information, equipment availability and readiness, risk management, and the associated difficulties of constant movement around the OR. Many health tech companies are creating effective strategies to address these hurdles, allowing surgeons to maintain control and stay scrubbed while addressing surgical needs.

Surgical assistant robots are allowing for more precise control capabilities for surgeons

The use of robotic surgical assistants increases precision and control capabilities for surgeons. These robots, designed for specific surgical procedures, allow surgeons to perform operations faster and provide greater access to surgical sites. Assisted robotic surgeries continue to be on the rise. They provide surgeons with the tools and expertise to perform better complex procedures, leading to more significant outcomes and shorter patient recovery times. Zeta Surgical, for example, is developing surgical navigation and robotic tools to make minimally invasive surgeries more efficient. Zeta Surgical is improving the treatment of neurological symptoms through precise surgical imaging guidance and mixed reality overlay with the optional use of a robotic arm.

In addition to using robots, using artificial intelligence, or AI, tools is becoming more prevalent in the operating room. There has been a significant shift in using AI to enhance human capabilities and add value to the care teams in the OR. Some technologies develop algorithms to present real-time data analytics and guide surgeons intraoperatively. One example of AI learning capabilities is tissue tracking by using ultrasound to help surgeons navigate tissue intraoperatively. AI is also being used with surgical robots to assist surgeries and to help with instrument manipulation and positioning. In addition to those use cases, AI analyzes thousands of procedures to create customized solutions for patients. Surgical platforms can now deliver actionable insights using proprietary software and AI to analyze large volumes of data, such as video, audio, and images. This technology is reshaping operating rooms worldwide and providing surgeons with the guidance and support to perform more complex procedures.

The use of AR and VR are enhancing the skill capabilities of surgeons

Augmented and virtual reality, or AR and VR, significantly impact preoperative and intraoperative settings. AR and VR enhance surgeon skill capabilities and are used to practice surgical procedures through applications using 3D scans, images, videos, and more. Care teams can now map specific surgical plans in the digital world using analytics to visualize treatment solutions. OR technicians, nurses, and staff are also seeing the advantages of this technology to learn and assist in the operating room. They use glasses to view real-time information during operations and can see a heads-up display to visualize patient vitals and other information as a guide through surgery. Immertec has developed a virtual reality communication platform featuring 3D VR video creation, automatic stereoscopic frame syncing, immersive video players, and more. The platform is designed to train remotely through immersive environments to facilitate quicker adoption of procedural advancements. Developments like these significantly improve the quality of health care delivery in the OR.

The advancements in technology in and out of the operating room lead to significant cost savings and revenue. Many factors directly influence the financial outcome of surgeries; OR time, turnover time, staff burnout, sterilization, surgical errors, staff availability, equipment costs, and more. Hospitals can save annually by prioritizing standardization, better planning and preparation, and implementing new technologies. By increasing operating room coordination and care management, physicians can continue to serve as critical drivers for the financial stability of hospitals and ensure better time utilization for medical staff.

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