4 Advantages of Implementing EMRs at Your ASC

Sarah Sterling, business administrator at Post Street Surgery Center in San Francisco, shares four benefits that were reaped from implementing electronic medical records at her center.

1. Increased cost savings. After EMRs were implemented at Post Street, staff hours and supply costs decreased dramatically. The receptionist position was traditionally a full-time job, but with EMRs in place that position has been cut down to part-time. Also, materials needed to support a paper-based facility are no longer an expense.

"We no longer have to purchase folders, tabs for those folders or even paper," Ms. Sterling says. "Our EMR system has the capability of sending and receiving faxes, so you don't need a fax machine anymore that uses paper and ink. Whenever a patient's lab work, history or physical, EKG or surgical orders come in, it goes into a general inbox that the receptionist handles and into their records."

2. Better compliance with accreditation and CMS standards. Accreditors and CMS require medical records to be legible and completed in a timely manner. EMRs eliminate the difficulty of sometimes needing to read illegible handwriting and they also help the center completely fill out patients' medical records.

"Our receptionist used to have to take all our medical records to make sure they were complete and enter updates into the computer, and there can be an integrity issue if she's unsure what the physician is documenting in that record," Ms. Sterling says. "Now we use tablets with drop-down boxes, check boxes or fields where nurses can type in the information, so now medical records are more legible and there's no need to figure out what the physician or nurse wrote. Our EMR system is also set up to have required fields on a form, so users cannot move forward until they fill out everything that's required."

3. Increased patient safety. Post Street's EMR system includes an audit log that tracks when any particular user may be entering or changing information in a patient's medical record, which decreases the chance of accidentally losing or unintentionally changing any information. The system also only allows one patient medical record to be open at one time.

"If something accidentally got deleted or if a field got changed, you can go to the audit log and see what the content was before the text was changed or who deleted the content and at what time," Ms. Sterling says. "We also take photos of each patient every time they visit, which is uploaded and pops up in the upper right-hand corner of their medical record when a physician or nurse opens it. The picture confirms the identity of the patient and ensures it matches the right file."

4. Enhanced security and privacy. Ms. Sterling says deploying an EMR system has also helped Post Street meet government privacy and security measures, such as the HIPAA Privacy and Security rules, that aim to better protect patients' medical information and identity.

"A patient's medical record has to be tracked. So in our system, if anything is done with a patient's chart, like being faxed out, the user actually has to give a reason as to why they are faxing or why they are printing and to whom," she says. "If a patient asks whether anyone has looked at their medical information, we can pull up which physicians requested to view that information and when."

Learn more about Post Street Surgery Center.

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