Proactive, digital preference card management key to reducing costs and waste

New survey of Perioperative leaders finds card inaccuracy a burden on operating room teams

April 14, 2023

When asked for the main reason why supplies are picked for a case but not used, 40% of Perioperative leaders cited inaccurate physician preference cards in a new survey conducted by the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) and commissioned by Owens & Minor.

As the “recipe card” for a surgical procedure, physician preference cards dictate which supplies are brought into an operating room (OR). Card inaccuracies result in wasted time and labor, especially in instances when a high percentage of items picked go unused and must be returned to inventory.

With more than three-quarters (77%) of Perioperative leaders saying their workloads have grown “more” or “a lot more” since the pandemic began, there is an urgent need to address preference card problems and the associated non-value-added work.

Card updates mainly reactive

Physician preference cards drive multiple downstream processes that are critical to clinical, operational, and financial performance, from inventory management and accurate picking of items for a case, through to supply documentation, charge capture, billing, and reimbursement.

When asked how often they update preference cards, 26% of those surveyed selected “once a week,” 14% “once a quarter,” 6% “twice a year,” and 7% “once a year.” Nearly half (44%) selected “other” and the remaining 2% chose “never.”

Of those Perioperative leaders selecting “other,” most of their written responses said they make changes “as needed,” such as when a new surgeon joins the staff or when a current surgeon asks for a change, as opposed to proactive improvements. A few of the written responses implied that updates weren’t made until someone had the time to do them.

ORs have technology solutions, but don’t always use them

The survey found 77% of OR teams use a technology solution for preference card management. Those that have a process in place where an OR nurse can make card changes directly in an IT system report the highest levels if usability (81%) and card satisfaction (44%). But only 17% of respondents say they have this capability.

The most common process for card updates cited by Perioperative leaders surveyed (48%) is when an OR nurse relays changes to another individual who then enters and manages the changes in a technology solution. Among those using this process, 63% say it is easy to use and 28% say they are satisfied.

Despite technology solution availability, one in four Perioperative leaders (23%) report using a manual process where nurses write changes on paper preference cards. This preference card management methodology correlated to the lowest levels of satisfaction (18%) and ease of use (49%). It is also associated with the lowest accuracy rates (64%).

Given their importance, Perioperative teams should update preference cards on a regular basis, removing unused items and adding new items as physicians need them. But the research indicates that proactive card changes are not common practice.

So, what’s holding OR teams back?

The fact that only 17% of ORs have a process in place where an OR nurse can make card changes directly in a technology solution (cited as the easiest and most satisfactory approach) could indicate that most teams lack an effective solution to support this process.

Given most Perioperative leaders surveyed (40%) cite inaccurate physician preference cards as a driver of waste (supplies are picked for a case but not used) but few make updates proactively or regularly, also points to an inherent problem in the card update process.

Get clean cards while giving clinicians time back for patient care

What OR teams need is a digital solution that continually updates physician preference cards based on what was used in the cases, without the need for manual intervention.

What OR teams need is a digital solution that continually updates physician preference cards based on what was used in the cases, without the need for manual intervention.

Hospitals that use the Owens & Minor SurgiTrack® clinical supply delivery service for ready-to-use custom surgery packs can compare the items on a physician’s preference card with supply consumption data. They can leverage this information to build more accurate kits for fewer unused items and returns and less product waste. Furthermore, this data can be used to standardize on products commonly used across physicians and procedures to reduce overall Perioperative supply expenses.

Looking For More Of The Latest Trends In Operating Room Efficiency

The 2023 Owens & Minor Operating Room Efficiency Research Report presents key findings from the survey of 250 perioperative leaders. This report offers quantitative insights into how efficiency in an operating room correlates to patient outcomes and drills down into specific factors that generate unnecessary labor costs and waste.

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