Surgical Preference Cards


By: Ashwin Kulkarni

Published: February 11, 2020

While nearly everyone in the medical community understands that the U.S. healthcare system has a waste problem, the massive scope of the issue isn’t fully appreciated by many in healthcare. According to an article in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the annual cost of waste in the U.S. healthcare system ranges from $760 billion to $935 billion – a staggering 25 percent of annual U.S. healthcare spending. That means the U.S. healthcare waste costs as much as the GDP of Saudi Arabia ($761 billion) by a conservative estimate or as equivalent to the GDP of the Netherlands ($914 billion) by a more liberal one. 

This waste is multi-faceted. Among some of the priciest factors are administrative complexity, responsible for $265 billion, and pricing failure which is responsible for around $235 billion. These problems may be more complex to solve due to the legislative action needed to combat pricing discrepancy and the reorganization of the entire healthcare system necessary to solve administrative inefficiency. However, there are very tangible changes that can be made to reduce other sources of waste such as low-value care, responsible for up to $28 billion in waste, or the failure of care coordination, which can account for up to $78 billion in waste. These sources are responsible for a quarter of total healthcare waste.

While the vast majority of waste is responsible due to macro-level inefficiencies such as a lack of price transparency for procedures, providers can and should take concrete actions in order to care for patients in a safe and cost-effective way. In fact, multiple aspects of their workflow could be optimized in order to reduce waste on their end. This includes reducing surgical waste, such as unnecessary items, medicines and instruments, as well as improving communication methods in order to reduce the time of an operation while decreasing the likelihood of sentinel events. In fact, multiple causes of these inefficiencies can be traced back to a common culprit: surgical preference cards, the blueprints to surgery themselves.

In their current state, surgical preference cards are at best inefficient and at worst a liability. These handwritten cards detailing the instruments, procedures and medicines required to perform an operation are not standardized and are rarely updated, leading surgical teams to use their own intuition and experiences to prepare for operations. This often leads to surgical waste and increased operating times. These cards certainly play a role in the $78 billion in waste caused by inefficient care coordination.

Here at OR Link, we’ve created the digital preference card to fix this issue. Our preference uses a cloud-based platform for flexibility across multiple devices for the surgical team. Above all, they can be updated frequently to and tailored to the needs of each surgeon. An efficient preference card platform like this goes a long way to improving communication issues and reducing the amount of surgical waste.

If you’d like to know more about how the OR Link Preference Card can make your OR more efficient, feel free to contact us here.

To read the full JAMA article on U.S. Healthcare Waste, click here.

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