Definition Series: What is a Preference Card?
Preference cards operate much like a surgical passport. If an instrument tray or surgical supply is not listed on a preference card, it can't make its way into a case cart or Operating Room. The preference card, then, serves as the checkpoint or gateway between surgical inventory on one hand, and the specific needs of surgeons or procedures on the other. In this sense, it functions in some similar ways as a count sheet, but preference cards encompass all the particular surgical needs of the procedure -- from the way the patient should be positioned, to the kind of pack requested, to the number of surgical trays that are needed.
Or at least this is how preference cards "should" work. Unfortunately, in many facilities around the country preference cards can function in ways that are not as helpful and can even end up being detrimental to the accuracy of the surgical setup itself. It is not uncommon to see preference cards that have been out-of-date for years, and serve more as a general recommendation for what is needed for a surgical case, but little more. These dirty preference cards can cause incorrect instruments to be pulled, lead to case delays, IUSS cycles, and much more.
Whatever your preference cards look like today, do not underestimate the powerful potential of accurate and updated preference cards to drive real quality and efficiency across both OR and SPD teams. When you can't trust your preference cards, attempts at process improvement can cause constant frustration. But when you can trust them, some amazing things can happen. Before your next big case, dust off that surgical passport and make sure you're getting the correct inventory loaded up for that important trip to the OR...