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‘Inefficient’ technology hampering surgical efficiency, study finds

A survey of 300 UK surgeons by global healthcare technology company, Medtronic, has found that each surgeon loses an average of four hours a week due to inefficient technology – equal to more than an entire working month each year.

The study, State of Surgery in the UK: Technology and Efficiency in Patient Care, reveals 79% of UK surgeons feel care would be easier to deliver if technology was improved. It explores surgeons’ attitudes towards the technologies they use in their role, the efficiency of them, and the degree to which they enhance or hinder performance. Fifty-four per cent of surgeons reported spending time outside hospital hours on administration that could be automated, and 58% agreed technology in the operating room is ‘inefficient’, and could impact the patient care delivery.

Professor Naeem Soomro, Royal College of Surgeons Council member, Vice Chair of QA operational group, Vice Chair, ‘Future of Surgery’, and Deputy Lead, Cancer Surgery, said:

“The Royal College of Surgeons of England has long recognised the administrative and logistical burdens on surgeons, and the impact this can have on surgical practice and training. These findings validate and mirror our own research highlighting that the future of surgery lies in more forward-facing digital solutions. Robotics, data, and artificial intelligence, will allow the NHS to respond to current challenges around access, safety, and sustainability of healthcare.”

One application of technology the research examined is surgical video — widely used by surgeons to benefit post-operative debriefing, coaching, and skill improvement. Professor Sanjay Purkayastha, Consultant Upper GI and Bariatric Surgeon at Imperial College NHS Healthcare Trust, and Honorary Professor at Brunel University, said of the impact of a ‘more connected’ operating room: “The survey results reflect a challenge that many of us in the surgical community know all too well. For many surgeons, the lack of adequate technological support throughout the patient pathway leaves the surgical team perpetually short on time – time which could be used on crucial analysis and training. An upgrade in the technologies available to surgeons is long overdue.

“The enhanced efficiency and accuracy we gain from a more integrated and intelligent operating room are undeniable,” he added. “In surgery, the benefits of being proactive, rather than reactive, are critical to maintaining a high quality of care. Digital technologies will be key to sustaining this. Unfortunately, these benefits remain out of reach for far too many in our field.”

Forty-six per cent of surgeons surveyed believe recording surgeries is important for performance analysis and improvement. Yet of those surveyed, 42% point to ‘outdated technology’ as a barrier when recording these videos. “The results of this study clearly demonstrate that outdated technology is holding surgeons back every single day,” said George Murgatroyd, general manager and vice president of Digital Technologies within the Surgical business of Medtronic. “Smart and easy-to-use technology is already benefitting people’s everyday lives, and a similar digital evolution is long overdue in healthcare.”

Fifty-five per cent of surgeons said the time saved on administrative work could be used to upskill and learn new surgical techniques, with 53% saying they would have more time for pre- and postoperative consultations with patients. Forty-two per cent said they would use this extra time for training teams.

The survey was conducted for Medtronic by Censuswide from 1 March to 15 April this year, with a target audience of surgeons and medical practitioners from various specialisations within both public and private healthcare in the UK.

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