The Role of Care Orchestration Technology in Enhancing Perioperative Care

By Cindy Gaines, MSN, RN, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer, Lumeon
LinkedIn: Cindy Gaines

Perioperative care, which spans the time frame before, during, and after surgical procedures, consists of many vital waypoints in a patient’s medical journey. It requires a coordinated joint effort by clinicians to understand the patient’s medical history, evaluate surgical risks, manage unforeseen incidents, and initiate post-surgical recuperation.

Regrettably, this series of milestones and decision points is often plagued by inefficiencies. Critical steps, such as reviewing patient histories, interacting with patients, conducting tests, and verifying patient details, are time-consuming and labor-intensive.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) asserts that current technological offerings in perioperative care don’t align with the needs of medical staff, administrators, or administrative personnel. Incorporating high-quality, workflow-friendly software into this environment remains a challenge. In a recent survey, four in five (80%) clinical and IT leaders/directors agree that care coordination is currently a manual, tedious and expensive process.

In a paper on the application of technology to improve perioperative patient safety, AHRQ maintains, “The information technology (IT) sophistication offered to the perioperative environment does not match the requirements of clinicians, administrators, and even clerical staff,” and “workflow for clinicians must be made easier and faster, not more complicated and slower.”

Divergent Opinions on Workflow Automation

Notably, there’s a marked difference in perceptions about workflow automation between clinical and executive/IT leaders. A substantial 63% of surgical and nursing leaders believe that automation saves valuable time, allowing for enhanced patient care. In contrast, only 36% of top executives and finance chiefs share this viewpoint.

Although there’s a consensus that perioperative care’s challenges encompass manual processes, inefficiencies, generic solutions, and visibility issues, a singular solution remains elusive. About 78% of IT and clinical leaders think that tools like EHRs can tackle these challenges, while 23% believe technology can improve efficiency and mitigate lingering staff shortages.

However, while EHRs are essential in healthcare, they often lack the comprehensive information necessary for full-scale perioperative care coordination. Patients’ medical records can be dispersed over multiple EHR systems, and information within single EHRs is often siloed, hindering a comprehensive patient view.

When questioned on EHRs fulfilling their perioperative automation objectives, a mere 22% of executives felt optimistic. A significant majority feel EHRs are lacking, with 33% indicating that EHRs might suffice but would need significant extra resources.

Automating Care Coordination: A Shifting Priority

Despite the general agreement on automation’s role in improving care, only a third of respondents deem it “very crucial.” Approximately two-thirds view it as either “important but not urgent” (44%) or “not a priority” (22%).

This lack of urgency may stem from budgetary constraints. Over one-half (54%) of surveyed executives point to IT budget and staffing issues as barriers to implementing care coordination solutions. Concurrently, the nursing staff shortage, which jeopardizes patient safety, leads organizations to either contract costly independent nursing agencies or expect more from their existing resources. Both are unsustainable approaches.

There’s a pressing need for better collaboration between IT decision-makers and clinical teams, providing a clearer view of clinical challenges.

Automation’s Impact on Perioperative Care

Often, healthcare automation starts small and targets specific tasks before expanding. However, for perioperative care, a more comprehensive approach is imperative. Holistically coordinating data and actions across various platforms enables more effective care management. Intelligent automation can:

  • Handle tasks typically performed by nurses, allowing them more patient-focused time.
  • Aggregate essential data from patients, EHRs, and other sources to prevent redundant tests.
  • Ensure that all necessary steps are taken in advance, reducing last-minute changes or misunderstandings about surgery preparations.
  • Assist in identifying patients needing additional care and guidance.

Efficiently coordinating perioperative care through data integration across systems can enhance patient outcomes. Research indicates that well-coordinated surgery preparations could result in substantial savings for hospitals.

An Issue Easily Addressed with Technology

The question isn’t about the necessity of automation in care orchestration but its implementation. Intelligent automation tools for care coordination are available and can aid providers in cost reduction, revenue generation, and tackling staff shortages.

To truly capitalize on this, organizations should adopt care orchestration platforms tailored for perioperative care that also can address other workflow issues. By pushing for clinical automation technology, we can potentially reverse current healthcare trends, benefiting both financially and operationally.