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Surgery. 2006 Jun;139(6):717-28.

Reorganizing patient care and workflow in the operating room: a cost-effectiveness study.

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Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.



Many surgeons believe that long turnover times between cases are a major impediment to their productivity. We hypothesized that redesigning the operating room (OR) and perioperative-staffing system to take advantage of parallel processing would improve throughput and lower the cost of care.


A state of the art high tech OR suite equipped with augmented data collection systems served as a living laboratory to evaluate both new devices and perioperative systems of care. The OR suite and all the experimental studies carried out in this setting were designated as the OR of the Future Project (ORF). Before constructing the ORF, modeling studies were conducted to inform the architectural and staffing design and estimate their benefit. In phase I a small prospective trial tested the main hypothesized benefits of the ORF: reduced patient intra-operative flow-time, wait-time and operative procedure time. In phase II a larger retrospective study was conducted to explore factors influencing these effects. A modified process costing method was used to estimate costs based on nationally derived data. Cost-effectiveness was evaluated using standard methods.


There were 385 cases matched by surgeon and procedure type in the retrospective dataset (182 ORF, 193 standard operating room [SOR]). The median Wait Time (12.5 m ORF vs 23.8 m SOR), Operative Procedure Time (56.1 m ORF vs 70.5 m SOR), Emergence Time (10.9 m ORF vs 14.5 m SOR) and Total Patient OR Flowtime (79.5 m ORF vs 108.9 m SOR) were all shorter in the ORF (P < .05 for all comparisons). The median cost/patient was $3,165 in the ORF (interquartile range, $1,978 to $4,426) versus $2,645 in SORs (interquartile range, $1,823 to $3,908) (P = ns). The potential change in patient throughput for the ORF was 2 additional patients/day. This improved throughput was primarily attributable to a marked reduction in the non-operative time (ie, those activities commonly accounting for "turnover time") rather than facilitation of faster operations. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of ORF was $260 (interquartile range, $180 to $283).


The redesigned perioperative system improves patient flow, allowing more patients to be treated per day. Cost-effectiveness analysis suggests that the additional costs incurred by higher staffing ratios in an ORF environment are likely to be offset by increases in productivity. The benefits of this system are realized when performing multiple, short-to-medium duration procedures (eg, <120 m).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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