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Increasing Operating Room Efficiency Through Parallel Processing

Friedman, David M. MD; Sokal, Suzanne M. MSPH; Chang, Yuchiao PhD; Berger, David L. MD

doi: 10.1097/01.sla.0000193600.97748.b1

Objective: Because of rising costs and shrinking reimbursements, hospitals must continually find ways to improve efficiency and productivity. This study attempts to increase caseloads in ambulatory surgery operating rooms while maintaining patient satisfaction and safety.

Summary Background Data: In most hospitals, patients move through their operative day in a linear fashion, starting at registration and finishing in the recovery room. Given this pattern, only 1 patient may occupy the efforts of the operating room team at a time. By processing patients in a parallel fashion, operating room efficiency and patient throughput are increased while costs remain stable.

Methods: Patients undergoing hernia repairs under local anesthesia with intravenous sedation were divided into a control group and an experimental group. Patients in the control group received their local anesthesia in the operating room at the start of the surgery. The experimental group patients received their local anesthesia in the induction room by the surgeon while the operating room was being cleaned and set up.

Results: While operative time for the control group and the experimental group were nearly identical, the turnover time and the induction time were significantly shorter for the experimental group. The cumulative reduction in time during the operative day was sufficient to allow the addition of new operative cases.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates a system of increasing operating room efficiency by changing patient flow rather than simply working to streamline existing steps. This increase in efficiency is not associated with the expansion of hospital budgets or a decrease in patient safety or satisfaction.

Hospitals are constantly struggling to improve operating room efficiency. By redesigning the process of patient flow through an operating room using parallel processing, we generated meaningful improvements in operating room efficiency.

From the Department of Surgery and the Center for Clinical Effectiveness in Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.

Reprints: David L. Berger, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Wang Ambulatory Care Center, Suite 465, 15 Parkman Street, Boston, MA 02114. E-mail:

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.