5 Reasons to Improve Surgery Center Quality and Efficiency With Automation
"If you have a manual process today, that is likely costly to perform," he says. "If you can take all or some of that process and automate it, then by default you're going to make it more efficient."
Mr. Pelletier discusses five reasons to use automation in surgery centers.
1. Add efficiency by examining repetitive processes. Pinpointing which operations to automate in the ASC begins with determining the most repetitive and manual processes, says Mr. Pelletier. This will help to identify the best opportunities for drastic cost and time savings. "What are the things that you have to do every day for every patient that comes in?" he says. "Which of these are time-consuming, prone to error or inconvenient for the parties involved? There's likely a technology that can help you make that manual process more automated and more efficient."
Patient registration and completing pre-surgical assessments, which include collecting a patient's medical history and medication usage, and are among common processes to automate, he says.
2. Enhance internal communication. Automation can reduce errors in communication between all stakeholders involved in an ASC, such as the dialogue between a referring surgeon's office and the surgery center. "It's a big trend that I see now — there's a push for automating how the stakeholders connect," says Mr. Pelletier. "There are tools in place that make it easier for the surgeon and the facility to exchange information without manually faxing things or making redundant phone calls."
Exchanging data directly between computers not only saves time and costs while increasing efficiency — it also increases the likelihood that referring physicians will return to the surgery center, says Mr. Pelletier. "Automation makes it more desirable for your referring physicians to do business with you," he says. "If it's easier for them to refer a case to your facility because it's easier to communicate and saves them time, then they'll refer with you more often and contribute to more case volume downstream."
3. Improve patient communication. Communication between the ASC and a patient typically involves the exchange of information via phone, but this can be automated to allow staff members to focus on other tasks. "If you can automate that process and provide technology that allows patients to communicate with the surgery center, it will improve the accuracy of their communication," says Mr. Pelletier.
A patient using a home computer to answer questions about medications and dosages, for example, is less likely to answer erroneously when they can easily access their medicine cabinet and take their time when providing answers. An automated system can also allow patients to answer in a multiple choice format, which reduces the chance of inaccuracy or miscommunication, says Mr. Pelletier. "If you narrow down the choices, then you've improved the accuracy," he says. "You've also improved the service aspect of this by making it more convenient for the patient to do business with your facility, and their satisfaction rate will be higher as a result."
4. Better track and manage supply inventory. Supply and materials management can be automated with a system that keeps track of existing and needed inventory. "Why not have a system that looks at what you have in terms of upcoming surgical appointments, and knows what supplies you anticipate using for those appointments?" says Mr. Pelletier. "The system knows what you have in stock on your shelves and can determine when you don't have adequate supplies on hand."
The system can also generate an electronic purchase order to be sent to supply vendors directly when more items are needed. "This is more efficient and precise than having someone walking around to take inventory," says Mr. Pelletier. To reduce costs, the system can prevent the ASC from ordering unnecessary amounts of supplies by syncing the case schedule with the inventory. "Maybe your case load doesn't require you to have a high number of certain items in stock — so why tie that money up?" he says.
5. Don't underestimate the technological proficiency of older patients. There is a common perception that older patients are less likely to embrace automated processes such as online patient registration, preferring instead to speak directly to a staff member via phone. But older patients are becoming more technologically proficient, and automating the ASC's operations will not be off-putting to them, says Mr. Pelletier. "The degree of non-participation by those demographics is a lot lower than you'd think," he says. "More and more of the patient population is using technology regardless of age, and we see that trend continuing."
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