With digitalization becoming one of the megatrends worldwide in every industry, this shift from analog to digital has also started to take hold in the operating room environment. There has been a lot of conversation in the healthcare sector recently about how daily routines, workspaces, and even hospitals themselves will change in the years to come. With so much new O.R. technology coming onto the market every day, how can we ensure that this technology really establishes itself in the O.R. and creates value for the hospital?
Last week, Hospital Engineering Trends1, a prominent conference in Germany, gathered together experts from the medical, architecture and hospital construction industries as well as hospital themselves. The latest developments and constraints in building the hospital of the future were put forward. The most fascinating segment for us was “Operating Room of 2025: Trends and Developments”, which focused on the unique challenges the operating room presents in the face of digitalization.
We found it interesting that most presentations and discussions centered around the same crucial topics: The rise of Hybrid O.R.s, the introduction of artificial intelligence into the O.R., the emergence of robot technology as a central part of surgery, and automation in the operating room. Among all participants, agreement on the significance of these technologies as potential time-savers and outcome-improvers in the operating room was unanimous.
Even though digitization is rapidly advancing, the technology to push the O.R. to a next level is still in its infancy. As of now, a lack of real interfaces between technologies and devices is putting progress at risk. Devices and software must be able to work together to create a truly digitally integrated system in the operating room. This roadblock to full digitalization begs the question: Why don’t devices communicate with each other in the operating room? How can we achieve a deeper level of integration that will allow surgical teams to seamlessly incorporate different technologies and really make the operating room an efficient workplace?
When keynote speaker Hannes Kenngott from University Clinic Heidelberg pointed out his answer to this conundrum, we were thrilled to discover that he had come to the same conclusion we asserted in our presentation at the conference: When setting up an integrated O.R., it is essential to not only consider what happens inside the operating room, but to go beyond this space and include the whole surgical workflow. Therefore, it is critical to take into consideration patient consultation, surgical planning, O.R. scheduling, post-op documentation, data review and much more in order to create a holistic integrated digital operating room.
The O.R. does not exist in a vacuum. What takes place in the operating room begins long before surgery during the preoperative process and ends long after with an array of post-operative tasks. Both hospitals and industry partners will need to think about all of these three workflow steps. If we want to achieve the vision of an efficient and highly technologized operating room of 2025, the “integrated” in “integrated O.R.” will have to include all processes and workflows before and after surgery, not just devices in the O.R.!