Real-Time Data Capture: The Key to OR Success, a Happier Workforce, and Patients Who Thrive


Jeff Robbins

Jeff Robbins

In the age of digital transformation, it may seem odd to look back fondly at manually recording patient data in a chart with a pen. But because of the poor user experience that healthcare software often delivers, many organizations wish they could go back in time. This should not be happening.

Healthtech is essential for the future of medicine, and data capture is at the foundation. It’s used for everything from compliance to collaboration to data analysis that provides insights into personalized recommendations for care.

How do we create the systems that people want to use, the systems that move us forward?

Simplicity, clarity, urgency — these traits are imperative for technology adoption and an improved standard of care, and they should be incorporated into any solution.

Doing the prep work

Let’s take the operating room as an example. Every operation is unique. Each involves a team of people, a wide range of resources, and significant coordination. Technology is a necessary part of the surgical care process — before, during and after

Understanding what resources are needed, in which rooms, for which specialties in addition to how long standard procedures run requires meticulous planning. Technology can speed this process up exponentially if done right. Data collected in a few clicks can be saved and used to predict the flow of procedures, ensuring that ORs consistently maximize their resources and assist more patients.

Intelligent data collection also helps personalize the surgical journey while keeping patient safety top of mind. Suppose a patient has a latex allergy. With quality systems in place, the surgical team would know this information in advance. Latex would be removed proactively from the OR and replaced with a safe alternative; no packs containing items with latex would ever be opened.

To reach this point, however, software must be clear and intuitive for personnel to both record and review; it has to be something that makes their job easier, and importantly, it must be something that they want to adopt. Systems are only as good as the information they collect. If we want accurate data that truly assists patients and care teams as well as facilities, data capture must be as automated and radically as simple as possible.

Making real-time data accessible and useful

Within the OR environment, a different set of challenges exists. Information must flow in real time in a manner where every team member has access. Vital signs and key milestones can be tracked as well as potential clues that something may not be going according to plan, that adjustments are needed. Every second counts — and there is a lot of data to consider, hence the need for a system that knows what needs to be recorded, why, and what to do with it.

According to recent research, there are 10 unique data collection modalities for 17 different purposes in the OR. These include video, audio, kinematic, and eye-tracking among others which are used for everything from surgical trainee assessment to surgical error, team communications, and operating room efficiency.

It’s been very difficult for circulator nurses to document procedures given so many modalities and purposes throughout any given surgery. They might have to run to a computer or take time to log back into a record. Doing so can throw off a timestamp or delay the sharing of information with a physician who needs it. Alternatively, nurses may be recording timestamps on their scrubs or based on memory, entering timestamp data into systems later, which can lead to errors in accuracy or worse.

Technology offers us an opportunity to share crucial information in the moment. The latest advances enable nurses to work with teams right at the operating table. Data can be displayed on a large screen or a wall in the OR that everyone can easily read or call out, keeping the entire team on the same page. By placing real-time data in the surgical team’s line of sight, stress, distractions, and conflicts are minimized, which ultimately benefits patients by creating a higher standard of care.

Improving workflows for greater operational efficiency

Greater visibility provided by the right technology streamlines efficiencies outside of the OR as well. It’s not just about caseload optimization or operating room utilization at the macro level. It’s all the little pieces that come together for the desired outcome. For example, when armed with data, other teams understand when procedures are wrapping up. This information can be used to deploy cleaning staff to ready rooms for the next patient, allowing the next procedure to move forward without delay.

Streamlining workflows effectively is especially important where OR capacity is scarce. It allows facilities to not only accept more cases but also improve their reputation for patient safety, service, and satisfaction. At the same time, when data is deployed wisely, it ensures staff complete their scheduled work as close to on time as possible, taking all the intangibles into account. This reduces stress and increases job satisfaction and retention.

Still, for data-driven, technology-based tools to take off, ease of use matters most. The desire for healthcare staff to adopt new solutions must be greater than a senior management mandate. Fortunately, data capture technology has evolved to take users into account. As adoption grows, a virtuous cycle is created for organizations that benefits all constituents.

Jeff Robbins is founder and CEO of LiveData, Inc.

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