5 Tips for Updating a GI Center's Technology

While implementing the latest technology can be a challenging and expensive procedure for ASCs, it's usually worth the investment because it can attract both patients and physicians to a center. New York GI Center, a single-specialty GI ASC in Bronx, N.Y., has taken this advice to heart: The center's records are completely electronic, its endoscopy equipment is state-of-the-art and it uses only 100 percent disposable endoscopic accessories.

James DiLorenzo, MD, president of NYGI, says that technology is more of an investment than an immediate money maker. He offers five tips to help ASC leaders keep their GI technology up-to-date.   

1. IT is the backbone of your center.
Dr. DiLorenzo recommends ASC leaders prioritize information technology when deciding where to invest. He says the key to using technology is a solid IT infrastructure

"A key to operating a high-quality, high-volume ASC is IT infrastructure," he says. "The building blocks of your practice management, electronic nursing/anesthesia data and procedure reporting software make a seamless workflow possible. Without it, your documentation will never be complete, nor will you be able to track quality metrics and physician practice patterns."

The center has also invested in internet security to protect confidential patient information as well as a new inventory management software that will allow the center to use barcodes to track inventory use.

2. Connect with the outside world. The financial incentives for meaningful use of electronic health records, while not currently applicable to surgery centers, encourage providers to connect with each other using electronic health records and IT systems. Dr. DiLorenzo recommends surgery centers pursue interoperability as EHRs become more advanced.

NYGI belongs to a healthcare information exchange. Patients sign a consent form and their information procedure results become available to participating healthcare facilities. "Invest some money in the connectivity and the interface," Dr. DiLorenzo says. "It is really good in terms of continuity of care and access to important information by a wide range of facilities."

3. Budget. How much money a center can realistically spend on updating technology varies, but centers have to be willing to reinvest some of its profits into the facility.

"You have to budget for it," he says. "Figure out if there are things that you aren't doing that you should be. If there's something new coming down the line equipment-wise, you have to budget for [it]."

Once the budget is set, the center director or administrator can look at the technology available and decide what to invest in and what to skip. Dr. DiLorenzo says administrators should go through each piece of technology and discuss the potential return on investment. If the technology will attract more physicians or patients to the center, the ASC may be able to make back the invested capital by increasing case volume. He says ASC leaders should not expect an immediate payback with most technological investments, but the center should be able to pay for the equipment over time. "You have to look at the economics," he says. "Based on reimbursement, will you be able to handle it?"

4. Think of technology as an investment. Dr. DiLorenzo stresses that not all technology investments will pay off right away. For example, his ASC added an argon plasma coagulation unit, which is used for treatment of gastrointestinal bleeding.  

"You don't really look at that as a piece of equipment that is going to be a money maker for the center. It distinguishes us from every other office space facility," he says. "I have to be able to do what people can't in an office setting."

Being able to attract patients and physicians to an ASC is essential to remaining profitable. He says although patients won't generally come in requesting specific equipment, physicians do come in with an idea of the equipment they need to complete their procedures.

"I think for the doctors doing cases, you need the latest generation endoscopes so that they feel comfortable doing their cases," he says. "You want to have that instrumentation, the high-definition monitors, the standard things. If you don't invest in the best quality equipment, you won't be able to recruit high quality physicians."

5. Train your staff. Last but not least, make sure the staff is trained on the equipment. "You could have every possible piece of equipment with all the bells and whistles, but if the staff isn't caring and well-trained, the equipment doesn't matter," Dr. DiLorenzo says.

For each new piece of equipment brought into the NYGI center, the staff goes through an in-service training with the manufacturer. Initially, he says, they'll have a core group of technicians go through training and demonstrate competency. Only then will staff and technicians be able to use the technology with patients.

Learn more about the New York GI Center.

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