5 Big Challenges ASCs Can Solve With Healthcare Information Technology

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Dan Short, Vice President, Sales for Medical Web Technologies, outlines five major challenges ambulatory surgery centers face and how health information technology platforms can provide an efficient and cost effective solution.

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1. Difficulty collecting necessary pre-surgical information. This can be a challenge for surgery centers because they must collect the patient's history either from the primary care physician or the patient themselves. Pre-surgical phone calls are time consuming for nurses and/or front office staff and often result in incomplete or inaccurate information.

"When the nurses call, patients don't always have their information readily available and they have to call the surgery center back," says Mr. Short. "Technology systems like ours allow the patient to provide the data ASCs need but at a time, place and pace that is convenient for the patient."

2. Unclean patient information. Complete and legible patient information can increase efficiency and decreases risk. Even when patients manage to submit all the information before their visit, handwritten forms are often unclear or messy. Nurses are tasked with clarifying the information while the patient is in the waiting room. Some patients spend 20 to 40 minutes reviewing or completing paperwork.

"Having medical histories completed online in advance of a procedure allows facility staff to better prepare for cases. The information can easily be shared or accessed across the facility as needed; administration, nursing and anesthesiology are a few examples.  This saves a substantial amount of time," says Mr. Short. "Furthermore, the risk that incomplete information will cause delays or cancellations is virtually eliminated."

3. Unprofitable redundancies.
Redundancy is simply not profitable or patient friendly. Most patients don't want to fill out the same information five or six times through their care process because they are at different facilities or see different providers. In the future, health information technology systems will be more integrated so patients can share this data electronically.

"As ASCs transition to electronic records they will reuse data and populate it into different assessment forms," says Mr. Short. "They can then retrieve current data the day of surgery, and as it is updated, information will flow into nursing assessment and reconciliation forms. For facilities transitioning to an EMR, they will have a massive advantage with electronic data over those facilities relying on a paper-based system."

4. Traditional pen and paper is costly and looks unprofessional.
Patients notice when the front office and patient throughput processes are inefficient. Worse, wasted time costs the ASC. When patients supply data ahead of time, they can be moved through the system more quickly.

"If patients are directed to go online to submit information, almost all can and will," says Mr. Short. "The majority of Americans are online every day. We find 70 percent of patients can easily enter information online."

For nurses who see 500 patients a month, if 380 patients filled out their history online, that would significantly streamline the preoperative process.

5. Overlooking high-risk patients.
Not all patients belong in outpatient surgery centers, and in some cases surgeons need to make special preparations for patients with comorbidities. If the surgery center doesn't capture high-risk information, there may be complications in the operating room.

"Software can automatically cross reference a patient's answers against facility defined high-risk indicators," says Mr. Short. "For example, the DVT risk assessment is at the heart of every anesthesiologist's work-up. Systems like ours can use an algorithm to help anesthesiologists compute this risk."

"Finally, there is no doubt, the trend to replace antiquated manual processes with solutions that are efficient, reduce costs and increase patient and staff satisfaction will remain popular," concluded Mr. Short.

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