There aren’t a lot of things more anxiety-ridden and nervewracking than waiting for a loved one to come out of surgery. Whether it’s your grandparent, parent, spouse, child, sibling or friend, the waiting can often be excruciating, and minutes seem to pass like hours as you wait and wonder what’s going on, if your loved one is out of surgery, and when you can expect to see them.

A new information system at Saskatoon Health Region’s three city hospitals and affiliated surgical centres will help families know the exact location where their loved one is at all times, which will hopefully alleviate some of that worry.

Patient tracking system monitor in a waiting room

Photo of the patient tracking system monitor in a waiting room

The families and friends view of a new patient tracking system is now displayed on monitors in all operating room and day surgery waiting rooms throughout Saskatoon. It’s part of the Surgical Information System (SIS) OR Manager program, which was implemented at Saskatoon facilities – which manage 35 operating rooms daily – starting in September of last year.

“Taking advantage of Patient Tracking in OR Manager, which is the built-in, visible patient communication tool, was a must for our facilities,” said Cindy Graham, Saskatoon Health Region Director of Surgical Services.

Patient names aren’t listed on the monitor in the waiting rooms. In order to protect their privacy, each patient is given a unique code upon registering which he or she can then share with family and friends. Looking for this patient identifier code allows loved ones to see patients as they move through the various stages and rooms related to surgery, from pre-op, to surgery, to recovery, and into a bed.

“The view is in real time for the surgical patients’ families,” noted Lorelie Barsi, project lead for SIS implementation in Saskatoon Health Region, “so people know exactly where their loved one is as soon as they are relocated.”

This leaves out guesswork, which means less worry for family members that they have somehow been left out of the information loop.

The family view of Patient Tracking is just one view of several in the Patient Tracking system, explained Barsi. There are different screens for registration, pre-op, and other surgical areas; each of those screens includes the pertinent functional information depending on the care that the surgical patient requires. Each patient location is represented by a colour, so it’s clear at a glance where the patient is.

“Patient Tracking is the visual organization of all of our patients scheduled to have surgery that day,” said RN Bonnie Burns, who was involved with SIS implementation. “For staff, it’s a valuable communication tool – we can see at any moment where our patients are, which cuts down on phone calls and lets us know when patients can be expected.”

The system also allows staff to reschedule patients quickly – if someone scheduled for a surgery at a certain time is late, and the system shows another patient who was scheduled later is ready to go, they can move cases around so operating room time is not wasted.

“It gets rid of delays,” Burns said.

The staff side of the system went live before the family view was implemented, so any kinks could be worked out of the system without worrying families unnecessarily.

“Implementing the SIS OR Manager system has meant significant changes for our patients and staff, from the time they are waitlisted in our Surgical Scheduling department to when they have their surgery, to going home,” stated Graham. “It’s changed the entire surgical environment for all of us in a good way, and we continue to work on improvements to this new system.”