A last-minute surgery cancellation can be a costly occurrence. The Association for periOperative Registered Nurses recommends keeping same-day cancellation rates under 2%. This is an exceptionally low rate, but not one that is unachievable. Something as simple as a pre-surgery reminder text can significantly reduce costly cancellations.


Reasons for cancellations

Most of the time, patients are just as frustrated by a cancellation as the clinician. Scheduling surgery, filling out paperwork, organizing after-care, and taking time off work all take organization and energy. Patients want surgery to go as planned just as much as the surgical team does. In many cases, cancellations can be avoided.

For example, patients may be disqualified on the day of surgery because of unclear pre-operative protocol about what to eat. The patient may have logistical challenges, arriving at the wrong location or not early enough. The patient may not have understood that they would need someone to drive them home and show up to your ASC alone, thus prompting a cancellation. Communicating and even over-communicating expectations goes a long way in helping patients prepare for surgery.

Utilize CRNAs

Some facilities have found success in reducing cancellations through having CRNAs conduct pre-op assessments over the phone. Commonly, cancellations occur because patients do not qualify under the anesthesiologist’s assessment on the day of surgery.

A scheduling surgeon, perioperative nurse, and CRNA will all look at a patient’s chart differently. Having CRNAs conduct these calls instead of the anesthesiologist is a more efficient use of resources for an ASC.

Empower all staff

While perioperative nurses may not notice the same red flags that CRNAs do, scripted questions and protocol can empower all staff to conduct a pre-op assessment. To utilize all staff, nurses can ask a series of questions, only flagging the CRNA or anesthesiologist when necessary.

If any barriers to surgery do come up, staff can help the patients develop an alternate plan and avoid a day-of cancellation.

Communication is the key

Reminders that go out the day before a surgery can significantly reduce the chances that a patient will show up unprepared for surgery. ASC staff don’t always have time to make reminder calls or draft emails. Investing in a communication tool that sends automated reminders can be a communication game-changer. Some software options can even integrate directly with the medical record so that patients get personalized reminders with specific pre-op instructions.

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