Background and objective: We investigated whether an increase in anaesthesia staffing to permit induction of anaesthesia before the previous case had ended (‘overlapping’) would increase overall efficiency in the operating room. Hitherto, the average duration of operating sessions was too long, thus impeding the timely commencement of physicians' ward duties.
Methods: The investigation was designed as a prospective, non-randomized, interrupted time-series analysis divided into three phases: (a) a baseline of 3.5 months, (b) a 2.5 month intervention phase, in which anaesthesia staffing was increased by one attending physician and one nurse, and (c) a further 2 months under baseline conditions. Data focussed on process management were collected from operating room staff, anaesthesia personnel and surgeons using a structured questionnaire collected daily during the entire study.
Results: Turnover time between consecutive operations decreased from 65 to 52 min per operation (95% CI: 9; 17; P = 0.0001). Operating room occupancy increased from 4:28 to 5:27 h day−1 (95% CI: 50; 68; P = 0.005). The surgeons began their work on the ward 35 min (95% CI: 30; 40) later than before the intervention and their overtime increased from 22:36 to 139:50 h.
Conclusions: The time between surgical operations decreased significantly. Increased operating room efficiency owing to overlapping induction of anaesthesia allows more intense scheduling of operations. Thus, physicians and nurses can be released to spend more time with their patients in the ward. Improving the efficiency of the operating room alone is insufficient to improve human resource management at all levels of a surgical clinic.