Automation Tech in the OR Has a Robust ROI, Allina Health Exec Says

Surgeons doing surgery in operating theatre.

At the beginning of last year, Allina Health noticed its surgery scheduling function had remained more or less the same for the past three decades. The health system — which owns 12 hospital campuses and more than 90 clinics in Minnesota and western Wisconsin — knew that this had to change, said William Evans, its vice president of surgical services and orthopedics.

“We were still using manual processes to get things coordinated. There was a ton of labor that went into it. We were still using faxes. And so we had a hypothesis that having an automated, AI-supported solution had to be better than what we were doing,” he said.

Allina’s hypothesis was proven right. After adopting Qventus’ perioperative solution, the health system has seen significant gains in surgical case volume and operating room efficiency in just a few months of using the software, Evans declared. Allina claimed that the tool led to growth in its surgical volume and revenue, but the health system declined to provide actual dollar figures.

Evans didn’t disclose which other vendors Allina looked at last year, but Qventus’ software won the came out on top and was implemented at the health system in June. Qventus’ product integrates with EHRs and uses machine learning to automate operating room scheduling processes and maximize surgical caseloads.

Qventus’s perioperative software promises to increase available OR time, grow surgical robot access and allow surgical clinics to easily view and request OR time without logging into the EHR. The solution also provides insights about OR and surgeon performance compared to market benchmarks, as well as identifies opportunities for referrals and outmigration improvement to gain market share.

In the first four months of adopting the software, Allina has added 3.5 surgical cases per OR per month, Evans said. 

“The OR is the most expensive asset in almost any hospital system and the highest revenue generator. Anything you can do to increase the efficiency and throughput will almost by nature affect the bottom line positively,” he declared.

Allina surgeons enjoy using Qventus’ software because it allows them to easily release and fill block time, Evans said. Since the tool was implemented, more than 100 hours of OR block time have been released early per month across Allina’s facilities to ensure higher OR utilization.

Qventus’ product also helped Allina use its Da Vinci surgical robots more efficiently. The health system has seen a 36% increase in cases per surgical robot per month, Evans pointed out. 

“We’ve actually had to go out and buy new robots because our surgeons were saying we’ve made it so easy for them. So not only did we increase the utilization of each robot, we’ve actually needed to expand the fleet of them because the surgeon demand has gone up so much,” he said.

Evans recommended that other health systems adopt automation technology to help grow surgical revenue and reduce burnout among support staff.

He said it’s easy to see an ROI just from the couple of cases that are now added per OR per month. But there’s a second justification for the investment Evans thinks is just as important — the software’s ability to deliver a better experience for employees.

“I think there’s going to be cost savings on the surgery scheduling team,” he said. “Think about the amount of turnover that was going on with a very manual process that was cumbersome and laborious. Our scheduling team now has a cutting-edge solution that makes their jobs easier, so I think we’re actually going to see a significant reduction in our staff turnover.”

Photo:, Simonkr, Getty Images