Technology can be crucial to how an ASC manages everyday operations, such as scheduling and patient communication.
Five administrators share the technology ASCs need to succeed:
Michael Powers. Administrator of Children’s West Surgery Center (Knoxville, Tenn.): A system that understands and assists the complexity found in the ASC setting [is essential], such as registration, billing, [operating room] scheduling, materials management, etc. Also, a system that supports texting patients/families and physicians for optimal communication. In addition, an electronic system for pre-surgical medical questionnaires for patient screening, follow-up text links for patient satisfaction, and finally, an integrated system with all of the above adding electronic prescribing.
Matthew Ewasko. Administrator of Physicians Alliance Surgery Center (Cape Girardeau, Mo.): I don’t think there is any one specific technology that is essential to the ASC industry. I believe that each ASC needs to evaluate their specific needs, and the needs of their patient population, to build out their own “digital package,” for lack of a better term. This package might include patient portals for pre-op and scheduling, availability of online bill payment services, and possibly an [electronic medical records] system that allows the ASC to communicate digitally with provider practice locations. All of these items could enhance the efficiency of the ASC and allow the staff to focus more time on the patient/procedures. Our facility has done this evaluation and will continue to do so as we move into the future. We are continuing to evaluate our processes and see where technology can assist us in serving the needs of our community.
Leasa Hermanson, MSN, RN. Administrator of Ambulatory Care Center (Vineland, N. J.): Of course, we utilize technology in every area of the center — from the front office to the operating rooms and sterile processing. However, in my opinion, the most important tool we use in the ASC is health information technology. The ability to utilize web-based programs to schedule, register and communicate with patients is key. COVID has forced us to evaluate our processes and the way we interact with patients. Understanding that access to information and quality communication are primary concerns for most patients, we have focused on improving our accessibility.
First, we revamped our website, including links to important resources, forms and providers. We included COVID update information, outlining our center policies and restrictions to ensure a healthy environment. We also incorporated a higher level of electronic communication, including text messaging patients, which has led to lower cancellations, improved documentation and increased patient satisfaction. We also send day of surgery instructions and customized post-op instructions electronically.
Although there are varied opinions about the importance of the post-op phone call, we have had a lot of success with a simple four-question survey sent via text message or email the day after surgery. By and large, people do not like interruptions. They appreciate the opportunity to complete the survey at their convenience with the click of a few buttons. This is true for patient satisfaction surveys as well. We have experienced increased returns, and patients often leave complimentary remarks that the staff enjoy reading.
Suzi Cunningham. Administrator of Advanced Ambulatory Surgery Center (Redlands, Calif.): In the last couple of years, we have slowly added different types of technology to increase the efficiency in our center, to better communicate with our patients, to train/monitor training of our staff, to follow up and maintain our credentialing files, to synchronize our staff scheduling with our timekeeping and payroll systems, in addition to moving to electronic health records. I can’t imagine doing business without it. The challenge is keeping up with all the advances and choosing which platforms will best work for our center. Bottom line, we have found that technology is critically important in successfully running our center.
Meredith Warf. Administrator of Mississippi Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center (Jackson): As the standard of care for higher acuity cases moves to the ASC setting, technology that can not only capture patient reported outcomes but also serve as a patient engagement platform is critical to best practice in outpatient care. Patients who take an active role in their care plan and recovery throughout the entire pre-surgery period and 90 days post-op are much better poised for a better experience as well as better outcomes. We like to term this 'partnering with the patient as well as the payer' in producing highest quality care in the lowest cost setting.