Many vendors offer special software applications for the operating
room. Packages for scheduling, materials management, and clinical
documentation have been offered for years. At a time when the OR
represents the most profitable service line for most hospitals (see
post below) there is increasing focus on "comprehensive perioperative management," or what I call patient flow.

Healthcare Informatics has a great story
on the surgical perioperative management software market. The surgical
patient flow software market is a great example of a niche or
best-of-breed market that won't be overtaken by the big health care IT
vendors any time soon. The typical surgery department can add $10
million to their hospital's bottom line just by squeezing one or two
more cases in per day - a very reasonable goal with the adoption of a
perioperative management system. As with any information system, one of
the biggest benefits is detailed operating data that can be used to
better manage the department.

[Frank Ehrlich, M.D., chairman of surgery
at 500-bed Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, Bronx, NY] and his colleagues have been optimizing processes by using data
to show fellow surgeons when changes in practice patterns are
appropriate. "If all SIS [Surgical Information System, Alpharetta, GA].did was to give me a good, simple scheduling
program, I wouldn't have bought that," says Ehrlich. "I need the rest
of this information. And I need to be able to also connect all the
dots" with in-depth analysis of perioperative processes.

For many hospitals adopting this technology, automated patient and asset tracking is a key part of the solution.

Reworking patient-location management could also have major benefits,
says Stacey Youcis, assistant vice president of musculoskeletal and
surgical services at Lancaster (Pa.) General Hospital. Among its three
facilities, Lancaster has 202 rooms devoted to surgical procedures and
preoperative and postoperative care. In 2000, the hospital began
implementing a solution that combines technologies from PeriOptimum,
Pittsburgh, and Radianse Inc., Lawrence, Mass. With radio frequency
identification (RFID) and other technologies, patient locationing [sic] and
management have been revolutionized, Youcis says.

Market trends will continue to drive adoption.

The pay-for-performance movement, the drive to reduce medical errors,
and the ongoing rise in healthcare costs and other pressures will push
the surgery IT niche forward, says Rose Rohloff, senior product manager
at SIS. "You can't separate out or silo cost, quality, patient
satisfaction and patient safety. They're intertwined. You have to
address them all at once," she says. Jeffrey Karp, president and CEO of
PeriOptimum, agrees that progress is inevitable, citing the push for
clinical/quality improvement, financial considerations and physician
satisfaction issues.

The need to cross traditional organizational silos will result in
continued pressure for solutions that integrate specialized features
like indoor positioning and to integrate niche perioperative management
systems with other information systems in the hospital.

Not mentioned in the article is CIMIT's operating room of the future
(ORF) program. Projects like this one point the way to near term
innovations that will take perioperative management to the next level.
Here's the ORF problem statement: "ORs are small, inefficient, and
overcrowded. Patient data are not integrated in real time, and turnover
time between cases is lengthy."

You can read a previous post on one of the vendors participating in the ORF program, LiveData, here.