Surgical Subspecialty Block Utilization and Capacity Planning: A Minimal Cost Analysis Model

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BackgroundOperational inefficiencies in the use of operating rooms (ORs) are hidden by traditional measures of OR utilization. To better detect these inefficiencies, the authors defined two new terms, underutilization and overutilization, and illustrated how these measures might be used to evaluate the use of surgical subspecialty ORs. The authors also described capacity planning (optimizing surgical subspecialty block time allotments) using a minimal cost analysis (MCA) model.MethodsThe authors evaluated post hoc all surgeries performed over 6 yr at a large teaching hospital. To prepare utilization estimates, surgical records were categorized relative to budgeted OR block time for each subspecialty. Surgical cases beginning and ending during budgeted OR block time were categorized as budgeted utilization, budgeted time not used for surgery was underutilization, and cases beginning before/after budgeted block time were classified as overutilization. Cases that overlapped budgeted and nonbudgeted OR block time were parsed and the portions were assigned appropriately.Probability distributions were fitted to the historical patterns of surgical demand, and MCA block time budgets were estimated that minimized the costs of underutilization and overutilization for each subspecialty.To illustrate the potential savings if these MCA budgets were implemented, the authors compared actual operational costs to the estimated MCA budget costs and expressed the savings as a percentage of actual costs.ResultsThe authors analyzed data from 58,251 surgical cases and 10 surgical subspecialty blocks. Classic utilization for each block-day by surgical subspecialty ranged from 44-113%. Average daily block-specific underutilization ranged from 16 to 60%, whereas overutilization ranged from 4 to 49%.ConclusionsUnderutilization and overutilization are important measures because they may be used to evaluate the quality of OR schedules and the efficiency of OR utilization. Overutilization and underutilization also allow capacity planning using an MCA model. This study indicated that the potential savings, if the MCA budgets were to be implemented, would be significant.

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