5 ways digital solutions can improve OR efficiency


13 min read | last updated on: Jul 6, 2021
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Today's operation rooms have become complex, highly technological environments. Rather than adding to the complexity of the OR setup, smart digital technologies need to simplify workflows. And they need to increase the efficiency and productivity of the OR staff. But how can technology deliver on that promise? We'll show you five ways.

1. Reducing setup and preparation time 

Icon with calendar and check markFirst of all, efficient use of the OR depends on:

Easy and flexible scheduling of cases

This one is a daily puzzle for hospitals to solve – continuously. Enough ORs need to be ready for scheduled interventions, and hospitals need to keep in mind surgeons’ requests and last-minute changes or emergency cases coming in at any given time. On top of that, it’s not always easy to predict how long an intervention will take, so you need to take this into account too. Usually, a scheduling system helps the hospital to organize their operating rooms.

At the same time, hospitals want to distribute surgeries as smartly as possible. It’s often no unnecessary luxury to block an extra OR, just in case. However, just like the surgical department brings in revenue for the hospital, bad scheduling can result in costs the hospital would gladly do without. As a result, software for management of surgical operations is becoming smarter and even moves toward the use of algorithms to make scheduling easier.

Time required for preparation and technology setup

What is OR-over-IP?

Video integration changes the way surgeons and clinicians share and view information in operating rooms.

Learn More >

Operating rooms today consist of more technology every year. So preparing the OR has become more complex and time-consuming. Result? Case start delays, cancellations, and longer patient waiting lists.

Setting up the OR environment for a new patient should be simple and straightforward. A technology like IP-based video integration for the operating room, also called “OR-over-IP”, can reduce complexity and preparation time. OR-over-IP offers a standard architecture, which simplifies installation and reduces setup time.

Setting up the OR environment for a new patient should be simple and straightforward.

2. Enabling efficient decisions and streamlining treatment

Icon with surgical toolsWorking in an operating room can be stressful, hectic and physically demanding. One of the roles of digital technology in the OR is to enhance the surgical team’s working conditions, so they can operate in all comfort, make quick and accurate decisions, and reduce errors.

Surgery has always been a ‘visual’ profession: you rely on your eyes to do surgical work. With endoscopes and robotics now having become mainstream, this visual aspect has taken on a whole new layer of meaning. Surgery now also means working with display screens and even remote streaming – at the core of which lays, again, technology. Visual information has extended to endoscopic cameras, room and boom cameras, ultrasound, PACS and patient information. It’s of vital importance that you can rely on this information, just like Andreas Vesalius relied on his eyes when he started analyzing the human body.

So then, what are requirements for visualization technology in your OR?

Medical images should be razor-sharp and lossless (i.e. uncompressed, so none of their original quality is lost). 4K and 3D imaging expand the imaging options widely, so you can really adjust technology to specific interventions. With higher ergonomic comfort, actions can be done with more confidence.

Still, it’s no use to have the best image quality, if the images appear with a delay of multiple seconds, right? You might have the best displays in your operating theater, they need to enable the surgeon to maintain perfect hand-eye coordination. This is again where OR-over-IP comes in. Because this technology makes it possible to share images with no anomalies, in their full original format, and this with almost no delay.

In short, technology should support you so well that you don’t even realize it’s there.


Technology should support you so well that you don't even realize it's there.

3. Reducing turnover time

Icon with clock and arrow around it in a circlePatient turnover is the time between two consecutive patients. It consists of:

  • cleaning the OR setup of the preceding patient
  • setting it up for the following case

No two interventions are the same. For some types of surgery, such as hybrid or robotic, a hospital can have dedicated theaters. But even then, it’s possible that two consecutive surgeries need a different organization of the room.

With a technological setup that is too complex, the risk for delayed interventions is higher – a major source of dissatisfaction in the OR. All time lost on technology configuration equals the OR being underutilized. For example: that 3D display that you have in OR2, is it capable of receiving and displaying images in 2D when that is the better option? Or can you use it for 3D images only?

IP-based video integration systems can work on a plug-and-play basis. With a flexible system, you can easily switch between configurations and procedures, add or remove devices, and reduce turnover time. There are also less components to set up and worry about: less cables, but also less external converters, extenders or splitters.


“We cannot purchase an imaging modality for each OR – this would be too expensive as well as ineffective. Therefore, we share those devices between different ORs. Nexxis greatly facilitates this: all you have to do is connect the encoder, integrate it, plug it in with a single cable and it simply starts working.”
Dr. Peter Müller,
Senior Physician, Trauma Surgery at Augsburg Hospital (Germany)

4. Reducing installation time and technical maintenance

Icon showing a wrench in a circleIn order to work, all things tech have two basic requirements: installation, and maintenance (for hardware) or updates (for software) throughout their lifetime. As user, you want these to go as fast and fluent as possible.

Maintenance professionals like to schedule ahead. That’s why they value a digital OR that can smoothly evolve over time, along with both the needs of the OR staff and new technologies. A networked solution based on a standard architecture makes it possible to lay cabling in advance and add new sources or devices at any time. This is again about the ‘plug and play’ concept: OR upgrades can run quickly with limited disruption. A scalable and flexible system allows you to adapt as you need, and expand as you grow.

All technology has two basic requirements: installation and maintenance or updates. Both technicians and users want these to go as fluently as possible.

5. Reducing downtime due to equipment problems

Icon showing bar graph with bars getting lower along the x-axis. Declining arrow follows the declining heights of the bars.And then there’s that other unavoidable thing that can eventually come with technology… Downtime. Finding the root cause of a technical problem, such as a faulty cable, requires time, knowledge, and sometimes expensive measurement equipment.

As we’re nearing the end of this article, this is another place where software steps in. Because the best way of solving a problem, is making sure that it never occurs (or becomes serious) in the first place. The market already offers software systems that can connect to OR-over-IP systems and monitor them 24/7. This monitoring can be done by your hospital itself, or remotely by the integrator that provided your OR-over-IP system, so you don’t need to worry about it.

Common tech problems in the OR

What are common tech problems in the operating room? And how can you avoid them?

Learn more >

These monitoring systems track the equipment in the OR, such as the displays and the fiber cables on which the OR-over-IP system is built. They are cloud-connected and will give a notification when it detects a device or cable that is giving an error.

The benefits of this are that issues can be solved proactively, there is less chance of infrastructure failing during an intervention, and maintenances can be scheduled proactively and only when necessary. It’s also a way to reduce the time the OR is not used due to technology problems.

OR-over-IP is the future

In an environment where the patient’s stakes are so high and where every minute literally means money, digital technology can help improve the productivity and efficiency of today’s already highly skilled top OR professionals. The OR of today and of the future is one where conditions are created that allow surgeons to do their best work, by delivering highly accurate images, and by providing the most ergonomic working conditions.

But technology continuously evolves and thus, the OR also needs to be easily adaptable and interchangeable to meet future requirements. Its environment must be flexible enough to accommodate the most recent technologies, like 4K imaging, without having to shut down your current infrastructure. IP-based video integration, or the so-called OR-over-IP, is a solution that will support this expansion of technologies well into the future.

Discover Barco's OR-over-IP solution

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