You know the scenario: Your department was given the green light to pursue new digital health technology or room enhancement, you’ve spent countless resources planning and thousands of dollars (maybe even gone over-budget) getting the implementation just right. Then it goes live, doesn’t meet expectations, and people are looking for someone to blame.
O.R. integration can be a highly complex initiative with many stakeholders, various technologies both in the operating room and hospital IT environment, and a multitude of options to best support your goals. Maybe you can’t curb all the challenges that a large-scale project like this brings, but there are ways to set yourself up for success before you even get started. Let’s talk about the top five things to consider before you begin your O.R. Integration project.
1. What problems do you want to solve?
As you delve into planning, you’ll find there’s a myriad of problems that a digital operating room can address. It can be overwhelming! Identifying your hospital’s most important needs will help you maintain a clear view of priorities as you learn about the various offerings. It’s best to break down your general needs and then get more specific. Cumbersome workflow, large amounts of patient data, cluttered rooms, and rooms lacking standardization are broader problems that can be improved with O.R. integration. Next, think about your particular challenges related to video equipment (how do I handle all this stuff?), IT infrastructure (why can’t this connect to Epic?), documentation (where’s my screenshot?), communication (I’ve paged, texted and called them, now what?) and room design and flow (if I have to step over this cable one more time…).
2. Do you have specific goals in mind?
Now that the problems are identified, it’s time to understand exactly what goals you hope to achieve by addressing them. Successful O.R. integration projects consider specific goals for internal stakeholders, patients, and broader hospital initiatives. Internal stakeholders can include O.R. staff, surgeons, purchasing, IT, biomed, and the C-suite. For example, your O.R. staff may want to address a cumbersome workflow by having a streamlined, intelligent user interface with simple presets. Getting all internal stakeholders to the table early can be a challenge but first understanding everyone’s goals better ensures the final project sufficiently meets expectations.
Providing a better patient experience continues to grow in importance and many hospitals now have Patient Experience Teams to strategize on this topic. Goals for patients might include a better experience when entering the operating room or simplified communication with the patient’s family during or after surgery.
Finally, larger hospital initiatives can impact goals for an integrated operating room. Maybe your hospital wants to eliminate paper waste or make better use of your new electronic medical records (EMR)? Thinking about broader hospital goals as you plan for your integrated operating rooms can allow this investment to work for you in many ways.
3. What is your budget?
You know what’s not working, you know what you want and you have unlimited budget. Okay, not really. Budgets are never unlimited, but it isn’t just about the number. There are several things to consider regarding funds for any large project:
- What department is paying for it?
- How much is it?
- Will it be enough for all the things on our wish list? Can this be influenced if the list expands?
- When is it available?
- Who makes final decisions?
- What other resources will we need, such as personnel, equipment planners, etc.?
- What about maintenance costs?
Answering these questions early on in the planning process could eliminate unpleasant surprises later!
4. What are your hospital’s limitations and how do you prioritize?
Budgets are just one of the limitations you’ll need to consider when prioritizing needs. Other limitations can include time, resources, old rooms that can’t withstand new infrastructure, small rooms with little space for new equipment or minimal storage space, to name a few. Understanding these constraints before the project begins can ensure you aren’t investing in something that can’t be fulfilled.
A reasonable place to start prioritizing is to consider the physical constraints that can’t be changed, such as the size of your space. Are you constructing a completely new building or renovating existing rooms? Do you have space for an A/V closet in or outside the operating rooms? Once you understand what can’t be influenced, then focus on the rest of your needs. Maintaining constant communication with your stakeholders is absolutely key here, especially the clinical staff whom are most directly impacted by the workflow and operations of the final product.
5. What is the vision for your operating rooms now and in the future?
Many investments in equipment have little impact on future hospital goals, but O.R. integration is not one of them. If you manage to create a “future-proof” O.R. now, you’re helping the hospital to guard itself from obsolescence down the road. When adding hardware and cabling into the infrastructure of your rooms, you want to consider not only the needs of today, but how you envision these rooms to evolve in the next 5, 10 or even 15 years. Maybe you expect a higher video quality, such as 4K, down the line, or you’re just unsure how your vendors for video equipment will change over the coming years.
Imagine you just finalized installation of your brand new Digital O.R. and you learn that your endoscopy surgeons want to invest in 4K cameras, but the cabling you just installed doesn’t support this resolution? Pulling cabling is a disruptive and time-consuming process. And this is just one example of how the technology you choose today impacts the future of your operating room. Selecting technology that is agnostic, vendor neutral and can evolve as your hospital grows is extremely important.