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Anesthesiology. 2003 May;98(5):1243-9.

Operating room utilization alone is not an accurate metric for the allocation of operating room block time to individual surgeons with low caseloads.

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Division of Management Consulting, Department of Anesthesia, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.



Many surgical suites allocate operating room (OR) block time to individual surgeons. If block time is allocated to services/groups and yet the same surgeon invariably operates on the same weekday, for all practical purposes block time is being allocated to individual surgeons. Organizational conflict occurs when a surgeon with a relatively low OR utilization has his or her allocated block time reduced. The authors studied potential limitations affecting whether a facility can accurately estimate the average block time utilizations of individual surgeons performing low volumes of cases.


Discrete-event computer simulation.


Neither 3 months nor 1 yr of historical data were enough to be able to identify surgeons who had persistently low average OR utilizations. For example, with 3 months of data, the widths of the 95% CIs for average OR utilization exceeded 10% for surgeons who had average raw utilizations of 83% or less. If during a 3-month period a surgeon's measured adjusted utilization is 65%, there is a 95% chance that the surgeon's average adjusted utilization is as low as 38% or as high as 83%. If two surgeons have measured adjusted utilizations of 65% and 80%, respectively, there is a 16% chance that they have the same average adjusted utilization. Average OR utilization can be estimated more precisely for surgeons performing more cases each week.


Average OR utilization probably cannot be estimated precisely for low-volume surgeons based on 3 months or 1 yr of historical OR utilization data. The authors recommend that at surgical suites trying to allocate OR time to individual low-volume surgeons, OR allocations be based on criteria other than only OR utilization (e.g., based on OR efficiency).

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