Document management is a challenge for many ambulatory surgery centers. From scheduling through discharge, the ability to seamlessly manage documents in a way that is cost-effective and time-efficient is a struggle for many facilities. For those that are successful, document management can have a positive impact on a facility's quality outcomes and patient and surgeon satisfaction. For those that aren't, the consequences can be costly.
While electronic medical records are helping ASCs to streamline document management processes, too many facilities are not utilizing their system fully. As a result, facility staff continue to struggle with document management.
Simply deploying an EMR system is not enough. Selecting the right system and utilizing it to its fullest potential is essential for document management success. To get started on the path to attainment, consider the following:
1. Deploy an ASC-specific system. Hospital systems and physician office systems will not meet the unique workflows and document requirements of a busy ASC. Therefore, the EMR system you select should be built specifically for an ASC environment.
For ASCs affiliated with a hospital, look for an ASC software vendor that has the ability to create a simple interface for hospital systems (development of an interface is typically the responsibility of the ASC vendor, not the hospital vendor). Because there is a need to transfer data between a hospital and an ASC, facility owners must show how data transfer can be accomplished with relative ease or else they likely will be required to deploy the hospital system.
2. Take time upfront. Whether you are opening a new center or managing an established facility, it is important to take the time on the front-end to set up your EMR system. Facilities that take shortcuts will pay for it on the back-end as the old saying "garbage in, garbage out" will undoubtedly hold true. No matter how busy staff may be, it is essential that you put the necessary time in on the front-end.
For example, consider inventory management. If inventory is not correctly loaded on the front-end, you will never realize the true time and financial savings that can be achieved bringing the process online. Furthermore, without the necessary documentation it will be extremely difficult to determine case costing.
3. Inquire about behind-the-scenes logic. Many EMR systems provide built-in logic, either through the system itself or add-on modules, allowing information to be auto-populated to areas that need it; some even offer built-in alerts to ensure important documentation is not missed. For example, after a patient's medical history is inputted, some systems offer behind-the-scenes logic that warns anesthesiologists, surgeons and nursing staff of any allergies. This information will follow the patient through their entire surgical procedure, from pre-admission through discharge, which reduces the chance of medical errors and speeds cases through as there is less time spent searching for information.
4. Don't forget about billing. Look for an EMR system that offers an all-in-one clinical and practice management ASC system. We have found that using SourceMedical's Vision EHR with SourceMedical's ASC billing software greatly streamlines our documentation process. Once a patient is scheduled for a procedure, information is immediately accessible to billing staff allowing verifications to be conducted before the patient arrives. Information such as deductibles and co-pays are readily available and processed more rapidly.
An all-in-one system will also allow you to view changes, track trends and other relevant data on an incremental basis. With billing information integrated into your EMR system, reports can be generated with ease, providing the necessary data to make key business decisions, including profitability of procedures and contract negotiations.
With the right EMR system in place, processes can be significantly streamlined and documents easily managed. As reporting requirements continue to increase, the ability to accurately and efficiently manage documents are no longer be an option. It has become essential to managing quality outcomes.
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