Home E-Weekly March 6, 2018

What's the Cost of an OR Minute?

Published: March 6, 2018

Burning Time TIME IS MONEY In California, 1 minute of operating room time costs an average of $36 to $37.

You already know that the OR minute is the most expensive unit of time in health care. But do you know exactly how expensive? Using financial statements from 302 California hospitals, researchers found that operating room time costs an average of $36 to $37 a minute. Do the math next time a last-minute cancellation leaves the OR unexpectedly idle until you can assign another case.

Researchers went a step further by breaking down the cost of an OR minute. Of the $36 to $37 per OR minute, $20 to $21 are direct costs while wages account for $13 to $14. Unbilled supplies like gloves and sutures account for the remaining $2.50 to $3.50 in expenses, according to a JAMA study .

"These numbers are the first standardized estimates of operating room cost," write the authors. "Understanding the composition of costs will allow those interested in value improvement to identify high-yield targets."

Using financial statements from 302 California short-term general and specialty care hospitals from 2005 to 2014, researchers found the proportion of the total spent on direct costs increased while unbilled supplies and salaries fell over time. The study authors believe that the cost of unbilled supplies can be further reduced.

Richard Abowitz

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