The Case for Centralized Surgical Coordination

The Case for Centralized Surgical Coordination

Everyone loves one-on-one attention, but centralized coordination may be the way forward when it comes to surgeries. Having a dedicated coordinator for each case is not necessarily the best way to navigate the system.

The surgical coordination process can best be described as a juggling act, with coordinators constantly having to keep each part of the process moving forward. So many things have to happen simultaneously in the run-up to surgery. For example:

  • Benefits checks
  • Precerts
  • Clearances
  • Date confirmations/finalizations
  • Equipment orders

It can be hard but manageable if there are only one or two surgeons. Once the practice scales up, it all gets more complicated.

The good news is there’s a way of breaking that process down so no one is juggling a million tasks simultaneously.

What is Centralized Surgical Coordination?

Centralized coordination is where each coordinator covers a different part of the workflow, turning coordinating from an individual task to a manageable team effort.

Benefits of Centralized Coordination

Great Centralized Surgical Coordination

There are some clear advantages to a central coordination system:

  • Unified workflow
  • Increases in efficiency
  • Fewer HR problems
  • Less overtime
  • Trackability

Let’s dive in.

One Uniform, Streamlined, and Centralized Workflow

Each individual in an office brings their unique flare to the mix. It’s what makes having co-workers such a pleasure. However, leaving each individual to figure out and manage their own processes is risky.

In theory, taking an individual approach to coordination can work, but it means each coordinator needs to remember each step of their coordinating process and be on top of their workflow. Added to that, the coordinator would need to promise never to be sick, take a vacation day, or leave the company. Unlikely, right?

Without a set process, it’s harder for others to know what steps have been completed and where to find information. This can lead to logistical hiccups, repeated work, and potential conflicts.

This situation is eliminated in a centralized coordinating system because everyone follows the exact same workflow, and any staff member can interchange with another without hassle.

A Centralized Coordinator Increases Efficiency

In a win-win scenario, coordinators can accomplish more at the same time. For instance, using the one-to-one setup, a coordinator might call an insurance company to get one surgery precerted (waiting 30 minutes on hold until they reach the precerter — if they’re lucky).

In a centralized workflow, one person will still have the pleasure of calling the insurance company (and will still wait 30 minutes on hold), but will get five patients precerted in a single call. This is a major advantage of having a centralized coordination workflow.

Reduction in HR Problems

Another major problem with coordinators “running their own individual show” is the high turnover rate among coordinators. According to Zippia, 48% of surgery coordinators will stay at their jobs for under two years.

So, if Dr. Jones is completely reliant on his coordinator, no one else knows that coordinator’s process, and the coordinator leaves the practice, that’s a problem. With a centralized coordinating service, there’s no brain drain when someone leaves.

In addition, if someone only does a few tasks on the job, it’s much easier to hire and train a replacement than to teach a newcomer (who might not stick around for long anyway) every step of the complex coordination process. Centralized coordination is really a “plug-and-play” system, which makes managing staff easier, especially when there’s a high turnover rate.

Reduction in Overtime

Centralized Surgical Coordination saving time

A financial win for the centralized coordinating system is that, if managed effectively, centralized coordinators are more likely to stick to their work hours without needing overtime.

This is because coordinating tasks are distributed between the team rather than being the responsibility of just one person, as with a decentralized coordinating system. Different people can step in and complete various tasks in the centralized workflow. One person doesn’t need to get bogged down by a particular case and be stuck at their desk trying to take care of everything before an imminent surgery date.

Centralized Coordinating Leads to Measurability

A centralized coordinating service enables managers to do the following easily:

  • Assess the effectiveness of the team
  • See how quickly tasks are completed
  • Share information between staff members and departments

One of the benefits of centralized coordination is that KPIs can be set and tracked, along with incentives and bonuses.

Disadvantages of A Centralized Coordinating System

While there are plenty of benefits of centralized coordinating, like any system, there are also drawbacks for some users.

Patient Care May Suffer

No one wants to undergo surgery. It’s a daunting and uncertain process at the best of times. With a centralized workflow, there’s a risk that patients might feel they are being processed through a factory and won’t have the personalized care they crave during this vulnerable time.

However, a practice can set up its centralized coordinating structure to maintain the personal touch of the one-on-one process.

For example, the practice can assign a “front person” who will be the “patient-facing” coordinator and the main point of contact for the patient. This coordinator’s job is to keep the patient informed of everything, guide them through the process, and be available for all their questions.

While this is going on, the rest of the coordinating team coordinates the surgery and everything “behind the scenes,” albeit without ever speaking to the patient.

When implemented properly, centralized coordination will improve patient care. Surgery will be processed faster, and all the steps will be more efficient. Patients who receive great service and don’t need to reschedule surgery due to a preventable cancellation on the practice’s end are more likely to be pleased with their overall experience.

Needs Close Management

Benefits of Centralized Coordination

There’s no doubt that ensuring a centralized coordination team is performing effectively requires a lot of management resources. A manager must be on top of what’s happening, assign tasks, confirm all items are in place before surgery, and oversee the team’s overall effectiveness. There’s no denying this.

However, even with additional management manpower needed, using a central coordination system will certainly provide a greater ROI in the long run.

Surgeons Lose their Personal Coordinator 

Everyone likes having someone care for them, and surgeons are no different. Busy people – and surgeons – rank very highly in this category, enjoying what often feels like a personal secretary who knows the ins and outs of their setup and schedules.

Undoubtedly, centralized vs. decentralized coordinating sacrifices some of that personalization. But at what price? As Henry Ford said, “To resent efficiency is a mark of inefficiency.” It may be tough for surgeons to lose the one-on-one approach, but a surgical practice is a business at the end of the day and must operate most effectively.

Centralized Coordination Best Practices

Going from one process to another isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. What is the best way to implement a centralized workflow?

Technology

Centralized Surgical Coordination technology

Clinical managers and coordinators need to utilize a single platform where all i