Fujitsu and Baptist Health South Florida have worked to change operating room scheduling with a newly announced solution that has the potential to increase utilization rates while also improving financial health in terms of surgical discipline – a solution for Surgical Capacity Optimization. With the recent trial run yielding a 37% increase in available prime time minutes over a three-month period, World Pharma Today recently conducted an extensive question-and-answer session with Dean Prelazzi – VP Healthcare Capacity Optimization & Innovation at Fujitsu Uvance, Healthy Living Business Unit.
1. Surgical capacity utilization has indeed been an aspect gaining ground for quite some time now. How did Fujitsu find a partner in Baptist Health Innovations to move in this direction?
We inspired the team at BHSF be bold in reimagining planning and management in surgical services through the application of Fujitsu’s quantum-inspired computing technology. This unique computing paradigm is precisely designed for solving problems where you need to consider an exceptionally large number of variables for making decisions and this is a big challenge in block and patient scheduling. I’m convinced history will show this time as an inflection point in healthcare because we can now support surgical services leaders with unprecedented data and smart recommendations to optimize OR capacity, throughput, and case volume.
2. Can you please share your insights on the recently held trial of this element, which went on to enhance prime time minutes by 37%?
Significant prime time OR capacity is hidden by the inherent inefficiencies in how surgical blocks are arranged in a hospital’s OR infrastructure. This is not surprising because blocks have typically been created and scheduled in hospitals without the aid of advanced analysis. Fujitsu’s solution leverages decision science and optimization technology and knowhow to carefully evaluate past, present, and future block utilization patterns and then intelligently come up with alternate block schedules that are fully optimized. When we do this, we’re able to discover – or uncover, rather – existing prime time capacity that can be allocated to support increased case volume. It’s a holistic, system-wide optimization exercise that evaluates all possible block scheduling options to find the best options for uncovering additional capacity. When we did this at BHSF-Doctors Hospital, we uncovered 37% more prime time minutes.
3. It is said that this solution goes on to recommend highly customized and mathematically viable solutions when it comes to block schedules. What are the benefits one can expect from solutions such as these?
We model each hospital’s surgical services profile as a precise mathematical optimization problem considering specific operating parameters, policies, and goals of each hospital. This is also possible for multiple hospitals in geographic proximity so that load balancing case volume across multiple hospitals can also be realized. This is a highly customized, math-driven solution offering many benefits such as improved efficiency, reduced patient wait times, and better utilization of resources. It also helps minimize scheduling conflicts, enhancing patient satisfaction, and improving the overall operational workflow. Furthermore, it provides accurate data for better decision-making with strong potential for cost savings by reducing overtime and idle time.
4. Are these solutions going to be rolled out beyond the US (United States)? If yes, then what are the plans, and if there have already been tie-ups that have taken place?
Because our solution ultimately creates conditions for more case volume, this has exciting potential around the world to reduce surgical wait times and wait lists which improves the patient care pathway in addition to the longer-term cost burden on health systems thereby improving healthcare sustainability. We are actively expanding globally because we know that surgical wait times are an important healthcare concern in many countries. It’s an exciting opportunity for us because we are deeply committed to creating a positive impact in society through innovation.
5. With surgical capacity utilization taking effect, what are the immediate benefits that caregivers and patients can expect?
Changing OR Block times is a crucial step in improving provider utilization. This is because the operating room is one of the most resource-intensive areas of a hospital, and inefficiencies can lead to significant financial losses and patient dissatisfaction. By adjusting OR Block times, hospitals can better match the availability of surgeons and other OR staff with the demand for surgeries. This can reduce the amount of time that ORs (Operating Rooms) are sitting idle, thereby increasing provider utilization and reducing costs. If surgeries are scheduled more efficiently, there is less likelihood that staff will need to work beyond their scheduled hours. Lastly, more efficient scheduling can also improve patient satisfaction by keeping to schedule. By adjusting OR block times, hospitals and providers together can better accommodate these preferences.
6. One of the main features of this solution happens to be the recommendation engine. Can you shed some light on how it works?
Powered by a hospital’s surgical scheduling data from its electronic health records system, our solution finds patterns in block utilization over time as well as future needs, and then models this data as an optimization problem to generate intelligent scheduling recommendations that give individual surgeons the right volume and distribution of block-time to match their demand. These iterative and scalable ‘intelligent’ scheduling recommendations, tailored down to individual surgeons, empower surgical services teams with the data needed to improve operating room utilization, discover underutilized capacity, enhance surgical services productivity, and ultimately transform perioperative services.
7. Tell us how the recommendation engine would enhance the productivity of surgical services to the extent that it gets used consistently regardless of the geography.
By using data-driven algorithms that reflect the operating variables of each hospital, our intelligent recommendations offer precise actions that can be taken to optimize the scheduling of surgeries and recapture valuable OR time that was hidden. This reclaimed time can lead to expansion of services, higher case volume, higher revenue, and better utilization of the OR. More efficient schedules also help decrease case backlog and wait times. This not only improves patient satisfaction but also allows for more prompt treatment, which can positively affect patient outcomes. Additionally, by aligning surgeries with the availability of necessary staff and resources, hospitals can avoid unnecessary overtime costs and better manage their staffing needs. This can result in significant cost savings, contributing to the overall financial health of the hospital.
8. The Fujitsu solution offers data. How does this data access help in instilling the confidence of the team that’s working for prefect surgical capacity utilization?
In data, we have answers. Our solution uses all available scheduling-related data to model the profile of a hospital’s surgical services discipline and fully optimize surgical schedules. Today, surgical services leaders are highly adept at considering many scheduling options, but they do so with limited data, and without the benefit of knowing the full impact of each option. By precisely modelling surgical capacity planning as an optimization problem, we remove the guesswork, enabling surgical services leaders to evaluate more and better scheduling options that are rooted in fact and evidence, resulting in more confident decisions.
9. Define the precision levels one can expect with surgical capacity utilization, and how do you think these precision levels can be maintained consistently?
Our solution utilizes the data held and recorded in the clinical information systems of the hospital which is invariably the ‘single source of truth’ for surgical data. From block schedules to wheels in/wheels out, and the pre-booked schedules, SCO has all the data points in near real time to provide up-to-date precision. We don’t manipulate or overwrite data and go to lengths in our on-boarding process to demonstrate data validation, providing the surgical leader absolute confidence in addressing challenging conversations with evidence provided by SCO.
10. How has been your experience with the trials at Baptist Health Doctors Hospital, and what are the learnings you would want to implement when the solution gets offered to other facilities?
Implementing a new operating room scheduling solution can be streamlined with a system that minimizes resource impact, is user-friendly, supports decision-making for operational leaders. The system’s intuitive design reduces training time and promotes user adoption. It also serves as a valuable tool for novice leaders, providing insights for informed scheduling and resource allocation decisions. Furthermore, the system’s validated and reliable data fosters provider confidence, facilitating productive conversations and effective decision making.
11. Quantum-inspired computing technology is at the heart of Fujitsu’s solution. Why is this important?
Through our innovation efforts, we discovered the profound complexity of the surgical capacity planning and optimization challenge – so many scheduling variables resulting in a massive number of possible scheduling options – far too many for the human brain or traditional tech solutions to handle. So, we realized quickly this was a particularly suitable use case for Fujitsu’s quantum-inspired computing, Digital Annealer, which has been designed for solving difficult optimization problems with high precision. This is especially useful in the surgical services setting because we can efficiently perform data analysis tasks that would otherwise require multiple resources, including staff for data review and reconciliation from various sources.
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