As we look beyond COVID-19 there are many challenges moving forward, especially when we look at the long-term effects and impacts on Ontario’s healthcare system. As hospitals start to resume elective surgeries and procedures, it’s estimated that it will take five to eight years to achieve pre-pandemic waitlist numbers.
The newly released Ontario Medical Association (OMA) report offered solutions to tackle surgical backlog wait times. The report highlights a backlog of more than one million surgeries and procedures at the end of 2021, before the health system was hit with the latest Omicron-driven wave of COVID-19. In order to have a sustainable surgical and procedural delivery care system, the OMA suggests Ontario needs to have a whole-of-system model approach.
The pandemic primed us to become a society that actively re-examines and reimagines the ways in which we do many things in the healthcare sector. We need to draw on that ingenuity and look beyond the usual processes and policies to come up with an effective solution. This solution must include looking at all partners that work in direct support of the healthcare sector, namely the supply chain.
Supply chain is a crucial factor in effective health systems, yet it is often absent from conversations about surgical backlogs.
Medline Canada, one of the country’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of medical products, equipment, services and support, has developed an approach that can be part of the surgical backlog solution.
The Medline Complete Delivery System (CDS) is just one example of a supplier-led solution to help tackle the surgical backlog. This system provides hospitals with a sterilized, organized, and sequenced “kit” that includes all the supplies needed for a particular surgery.
Knee replacement surgery in Ontario, for example, has an estimated backlog of 52,492 according to the OMA report. It’s estimated that it will take 31 months to clear the backlog operating at 120 per cent capacity. Each knee replacement surgery requires many different items that all must be top quality, sterile and ready to go. This includes surgical tools, gauzes, suture materials, blankets, tubes and needles to deliver anesthetics, blood and medicines. The operating room must also be prepared with supplies if an unexpected complication were to occur.
A lot of time is spent by frontline staff to collect different items from different locations and get them to where they are needed at the right time. Ultimately, valuable operating room and patient-facing time is wasted. If we address this issue, then hospitals could recoup more time to tackle the backlog.
A case study of this approach at an Ontario hospital showed it saved an average of five minutes in prep time per procedure. Every hospital will be different, but if you added time that could be saved during procedures and changing over the OR these savings could add up to potentially several thousands of hours to reinvest in value-added work, the equivalent of the total annual workload of at least two full-time employees. Or it could mean performing a few extra procedures per day to help fight the huge surgical backlog.
Supply chain partners use methodologies to link people, processes and supplies with time and cost savings. They can assess and analyze the supply management challenges and develop new ways to increase efficiency, reduce waste and deliver financial savings for hospitals.
When time is such a valuable commodity in hospitals, especially when there is an urgency to tackle the backlog, collaborating with sector partners can help identify new and unique ways to approach a problem and find a solution.