Documentation improvement and targeted analytics can potentially benefit surgery centers in numerous ways.
At the 20th Annual Ambulatory Surgery Centers Conference in Chicago on Oct. 25, Jennifer Brown, an endoscopy nurse manager for Lynchburg-based Gastroenterology Associates of Central Virginia, and Tim Meakem, MD, medical director of ProVation Medical, discussed how providers can accelerate patient throughput, increase patient volume and improve care through documentation improvement and targeted analytics.
Dr. Meakem and Ms. Brown identified various ways in which automating procedure documentation can benefit surgery centers.
1. Going electronic increases integrity of information. With paper records, sloppy penmanship can slow processing, Dr. Meakem said.
"When people are handwriting stuff, that's a problem," he said. "I recognized that was a problem with me before we went electronic."
Additionally, for providers who have a hybrid record system, he said the number of people handling the information as it passes from paper to electronic form increases the chance of errors.
2. Eliminating paper records means more efficiency. Becoming paperless can help healthcare providers process records faster, said Ms. Brown, whose organization has transitioned to using only electronic records. As a result of the change, she said patient volume has doubled, and the staff members can spend the time they used to devote to paperwork helping patients and improving quality of care.
"We removed all the bottlenecked areas where we went from people to the computer," she said. "It allowed us to get to the bedside."
3. Records become more accessible. With hard copy records, Dr. Meakem said clinicians often find themselves competing for possession of a patient's chart. Staff members get held up waiting for access to records, and that slows operations, since rooms often can't be turned over to new patients until documentation for the previous case is complete.
"That happens at every stage of the process, where everybody's going after the chart," he said.
Electronic record platforms that allow multiple people to edit records simultaneously can fix that problem. Ms. Brown said they also help eliminate duplication.
4. Going paperless improves processes through quality data. One big advantage of electronic documentation is the ability to review the data to identify quality measures and improve processes, Dr. Meakem said. Caregivers will likely be more open to proposed process reforms if there's hard data backing them up.
"When you're going to talk to those people and you have real data that's believable, then you can get their attention," he said.
Ms. Brown said Gastroenterology Associates pulls a lot of quality data out of the documentation system, including check-in and withdrawal times, scope utilization figures and infection rates. Although patient volume and throughput have increased, quality improvement is her primary focus.
"If the patient's not happy or we're not having good outcomes, what good is an electronic record going to do?" she said.
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