Originally Published by Chicago Booth Magazine – Winter, 2017
Written By Debbie Carlson
The Challenge: While over the years digital tools have been introduced to streamline presurgery and postsurgery processes, the operating room itself is still largely managed on paper. During surgery, workflow and efficiency often take a backseat to traditional methods and the processes required for performing the procedure safely. However, increasing variability and complexity of cases without detailed management can lead to prolonged times in the operating room and greater cost. In 2013, Jennifer Fried, ’15, and Dr. Alex Langerman, a head-and-neck surgeon and researcher at the University of Chicago Medical Center, began working on ways to organize and bring transparency to intraoperative activity.
You ask, ‘How do you make the OR lean?’
The Strategy: Fried realized the solution came down to a classic business operation problem. “You ask, ‘How do you make the OR lean and give team members access to the right information at the right time?’” she said. Fried and Langerman developed software that codified surgery into steps and mapped out digital workflows for each team member. The software also tracks activity, allowing surgical teams and administrators to see OR activity in real time. For the venture to succeed, the software first required acceptance by surgeons. “They’re the kings and queens of the operating room,” Fried said. “Nothing gets in without their approval.” To that end, the software interface needed to be user friendly for operating room technicians and nurses who were preparing the room for surgery. Additionally, hospital administrators evaluated the performance of the software to judge the financial benefit to their institutions.
With Langerman’s established research on operating-room workflow and efficiency as a base, their software program ExplORer Surgicaltook data and feedback from surgeons, nurses and technicians, and administrators. Fried and Langerman also hired seasoned technology executive Eugene Fine as CTO to build a platform to make the software suitable for use across hospital systems and develop analytics on the data captured. Outside of the University of Chicago, four other hospitals are starting to use the system. “We continue to get feedback from our hospital users on product features and additional value propositions,” Fried said. “The company is still in its early days.”
The Takeaway: Reaching out to stakeholders and potential customers to understand their individual and group needs will refine product development and encourage product adoption.