Partnership pitfall: what happens to ASC software after joint venturing?

Ann GeierIntegration can be a great thing for an ambulatory surgery center. Aligning with a hospital partner can open doors to improved reimbursement, create new physician relationships and reduce fragmented care in a community. But, incompatible differences between hospitals and ASCs remain.

Oftentimes after a completing a joint venture agreement, hospitals are eager to pull ASCs under the umbrella of their processes. Ann Geier, Vice President - Clinical Informatics - Surgery with SourceMedical Solutions, explains the issue of software and why ASCs cannot function on a hospital's system.

Complexity and scale
ASC software is designed to meet the needs of the industry. From the clinical to business operations, ASC vendors are able to provide the customizable software solutions that keep surgery centers running smoothly. "We are finding that hospitals want ASCs to use their software and that is where the problem begins," says Ms. Geier. The level of complexity at hospitals and ASCs is incomparable. Hospital software is designed to address inpatient needs and multiple departments all the way from biomedical to pharmacy. It is extremely difficult to scale such a system down to meet the less broad, extremely specific needs of an ASC.

Hospital reporting needs center on the macro level, but for ASCs the devil is in the details. Case-costing is essential to an ASC's success. Software specifically designed for a surgery center will be able to break out cost data by CPT code and specific surgeon; tasks that a hospital system is incapable of accomplishing. "Hospital systems just aren't designed to capture the data we need," says Ms. Geier.

ASCs are a small environment, but integrating with a hospital software system creates numerous variables that previously did not exist in that environment. "Within a surgery center we are able to limit access, but with an EHR at the hospital a lot of people may have access," says Ms. Geier. "You need to consider HIPAA repercussions."

Addressing the issue
Hospitals can remain adamant that an ASC can convert its processes to the new software system, but the fact remains the two facilities have vastly different needs. "I have seen ASCs end up running two systems," says Ms. Geier. The hospital system runs side-by-side along an ASC system to help bridge the gap. "This doubles the work and is very frustrating, not to mention expensive," she says.

Alternatively, ASC leaders can use the data to present their case. "Reports can show the board what an ASC needs, but it may take time to convince them" says Ms. Geier.

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