Digital overload: How much technology is too much for ASCs?

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EMR, EHR, clinical software, data analytics platforms…the list goes on. The modern world of healthcare is suffused with technology, but too much can be as dangerous as too little.

Technology is expensive. From the initial acquisition cost to maintenance and upgrades, the dollars quickly add up and the return on investment isn't always there. Here are tips on how ASCs can strike the right balance between too much and too little in three big areas of technology.  

Social media
Social media is a cheap, or free, form of marketing. Any business without a social media presence is missing the opportunity to reach a huge pool of potential customers and to build brand loyalty. That being said, focusing too much energy on Twitter, Facebook and all of the other social media platforms is a mistake, according to the Forbes article "5 small business mistakes to avoid in 2014." Create and maintain a strong presence, but never allow social media to take up time that could be used on crucial day-to-day operations.

EMR, the digital version of paper records, has been the subject of much contention. ASCs don't have any monetary incentive to switch — the CMS meaningful use incentives do not apply to surgery centers — but relying just on paper may not the best option. A recent Frost and Sullivan study found that paper record keeping can actually have a negative impact on patient safety — any healthcare provider's number one priority.

Once the decision to acquire an EMR is made, do the research. Find an ASC-specific system that will fit the workflows of your center. Consider financing options and analyze the expected return on investment. Once a system has been implemented, maximize its benefits through training. Ensure physicians and staff know how to efficiently use the system to its full capabilities. The most expensive or complex EMR is not necessarily the correct choice; the EMR that will complement, not disrupt, an ASC's workflow is.

Big data, little ASC
Data analytics is a sweeping trend in healthcare, driven by increasing metrics reporting requirements and more sophisticated technology. Benchmarking is no foreign concept to ASCs, but analytics goes beyond that. Deep analysis can uncover trends and help a center improve its operational and financial performance, but that level of analysis requires tools.

Hospitals can afford, and often require, complex data analytics platforms to mine and make useful the mountains of data flowing through such large healthcare facilities. ASCs are not hospitals. They are not as intricate, nor do they have the capitol available to finance huge data tool purchases. But, there is an unavoidable push from patients and payers alike for big data across all of healthcare. Whether through a third party vendor or management company, ASCs will eventually need to tackle data analytics. The question becomes what system will allow for efficient collection and analysis, without leaving ASC leaders in a tangle of useless data.

Technology isn't a question of all or nothing. Like any small business, ASCs need to find the right technology for the right price.

More articles on ASC issues:
55 things to know about ASC company 2Q financial reports
7 ASCs making the news this week
10 endoscopy centers earn 2013/2014 APEX Quality Award

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