Las Vegas Software Startup Company PrefCards Is Cleaning Up Healthcare Waste

Day after day, a staggering number of sterile medical supplies are being wasted during surgery. It’s a complicated problem stemming from the operating room staff’s desire to have available anything that the surgeon might need during surgery. Unfortunately, however, even having an experienced and efficient surgeon doesn’t correct the problem–the waste actually starts with the use of outdated preference card systems. 

When a surgeon plans a procedure at a surgery center, the OR staff prepare by reviewing surgical preference cards that list what instruments, sutures, gloves, and disposable devices will be required. Each surgeon has their own cards for each procedure they offer. It’s a complicated system, made worse by old preference card systems (and often literally paper notecards) that are hard to continually update, sometimes lost or duplicated, and often illegible. What’s more, many surgery software suites offer a preference card module, but the modules are so complicated and cumbersome that they fall to the wayside unused.

According to a recent article in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the annual cost of waste in the U.S. healthcare system ranges from $760 billion to $935 billion–roughly 25 percent of total annual U.S. healthcare spending. To put that in perspective, that’s more than ten times what all of the large casinos in Las Vegas combined make in a year!   

Time For Change

Fed up with the normality of the waste and the obsolescence of paper preference cards, two physician brothers Paul and Brandon Reynolds decided to revolutionize the system. Brandon is a plastic surgeon and Paul is an anesthesiologist so they have a first-hand understanding of the issues. And they have personally felt the pain from OR staff not having the right supplies for surgery and wasting too many unused items. 

In 2013, Paul and Brandon teamed up with the most talented programmer they could find to bring to life their idea. Several years later, after multiple iterations of the software and years of beta-tests and pilot programs, their business PrefCards was born. It’s a groundbreaking software system that’s helping to lower procedure costs and waste with its easy-to-update interface, cloud-computing security and portability, over-the-air updatability, and 21st-century features. 

Paul Reynolds, when asked about the most eye-opening part of the whole startup process, said, “We always suspected that a huge amount of sterile supplies were being opened and wasted, but once PrefCards’ software started really digging into the issue, we uncovered staggering amounts of squandered items. What’s even more, we are able to direct surgeons to more efficient ways, in terms of supplies and costs, to perform the same procedure without sacrificing patient care.”

The Solution 

PrefCards uses computer intelligence to identify which surgeons are outliers amongst their peers in terms of costs per procedure. The large majority of surgeons actually want to be efficient with their supplies, they just have had no way to quantify their waste to date. When they see their typical cost compared to others in their area, it can be easy to confront why this may be happening and what can be done to solve it. Often, it is as simple as switching one very expensive item for a comparable but cheaper item or making sure the OR staff knows not to open certain items that potentially won’t be used. 

The cloud-based platform will also flag expensive items so nurses confirm the usage before opening. This greatly helps cut costs and medical waste because it can be common for nurses to open extra items “just in case”.  But with this system, the OR nurses are more aware of which items are expensive, so they will not open them unless they are for sure going to be used in the surgery.

By applying a few of these fixes to the problem, it is estimated that each of the 5,000+ surgery centers in the U.S. can save hundreds of dollars per day by not opening and wasting unused sterile supplies. These savings multiplied out across all the surgery centers alone could equate to a billion dollars in savings over a year.

PrefCards provides a structure to build the most effective and efficient operating process possible. The accuracy of surgical preference cards will ensure the correct supplies are available on each individual case cart and reduce the number of supplies that are wasted in the OR. Eliminating this type of waste will save hospitals, surgical centers, payors, and patients money and improve OR teamwork and employee satisfaction. 

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