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EHRs in ASCs: 5 thoughts for the present and future

EHRs may not be commonplace in the ASC industry today, but sooner rather than later the industry will realize the value of leaving the world of paper behind.

During a July 30 webinar hosted by Becker's ASC Review, Tara Vail, MBA, Vice President of Marketing with HSTpathways, discussed the barriers to EHR implementations in ASCs, reasons to consider making the switch and how to select the right system for your center.

1. Operational impact. Meaningful use has been a significant driver behind EHR adoption in the hospital and physician space. These systems are meant to increase efficiency, drive improved workflows and improve how healthcare data is shared and stored – and they often achieve these ends – but one of the most frequent critiques is the negative impact on day-to-day operations. Hospitals and physicians point out that through the implementation process and beyond, EHRs eat up time and affect everything from case volume to staffing. Taking these possible consequences into consideration as well as the fact the government has yet to create an incentive program for ASCs, it can be daunting for ASC leaders considering an EHR.

2. Technical challenges. The EHR market is relatively young, and therefore imperfect. There will be technical challenges with any system. "There are no consistent data standards in the healthcare industry. There are HL7 incompatibility issues, most software only works on PCs or Apple, and there are HIPAA reporting and auditing issues to contend with," said Ms. Vail. ASC leaders must carefully consider which solution is to best to help minimize these issues and reduce the impact on operations, staff and patients.

3. Why ASCs need EHRs. Given these operational and technical challenges, why should ASCs switch to EHRs? "Change can be difficult without a compelling reason," said Ms. Vail. "Despite the bad reputation of EHRs, hospitals have seen positive results. If ASCs are going to compete against hospitals and continue providing quality care, they cannot be left out of the technology wave." Patients and physicians are increasingly expecting electronic medical records, and to remain competitive ASCs will need to oblige long before the government mandates it. Aside from meeting demand, EHRs can:

•    Improve care coordination
•    Integrate quality tracking into the clinical workflow
•    Play a role in increasing patient safety
•    Improve regulatory compliance

4. What features to look for. Not all EHRs are created equally. The ASC environment is different than a hospital or physician office environment. The savvy shopper will want to look beyond features when selecting an EHR that will work best for the ASC setting. Ms. Vail recommends considering:

•    Adaptable architecture. Is the design of the EHR flexible? Can vendors make changes without disrupting the stability of the entire system?
•    Functionality. Consider how an EHR will play into the increasing need for interoperability. How is data managed and stored? Is the system mobile friendly? Does it offer concurrent charting?
•    Regulatory compliance. How does the vendor help protect you from HIPAA violations and security breaches? How does it help you comply with the Joint Commission or AAAHC requirements?

5. The future of EHRs in surgery centers. Healthcare is radically different than just a decade ago, and the next 10 years are set to bring about even more change. Consider how your EHR will play a role in:

•    Bluetooth enabled transfer of patient data
•    Patient ownership of their records regardless of the provider
•    Rising number of patients with high deductibles
•    Value-based reimbursement
•    ACO model in the ASC space
•    Increase in ASCs with 23-hour and convalescent stays

All of this is coming to the ASC setting, and these are just the changes that can be predicted. Paper records have little place in this new vision of healthcare.

Download the webinar presentation here. View the webinar by clicking here. We suggest you download the video to your computer before viewing to ensure better quality.

Note: View archived webinars by clicking here.

More articles on ASC issues:
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ASC efficiency: Best strategies to overcome today's toughest challenges

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