The ins and outs of data collection in ASCs

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Technology is changing the healthcare field with healthcare professionals keeping up with the changing times to remain profitable in the current healthcare market. ASCs are mandated to report quality data, and facilities use data analytics to efficiently manage their center. Data collection is a valuable tool ASC leaders utilize to compare their facility in relation to others and ultimately improve their surgical center.  

Kimberly Flor, RN, MSN, CASC, is the administrator of Sweetwater Surgery Centers in Rock Springs, Wyo., and Premier Surgery Center in Evanston, Wyo. Her facilities utilize data collection to enhance practices within the centers.

She says, "We are always reviewing data and reporting it on a board level. We then go back as a quality team and look at differences in the data, such as whether we met our goal.  If not, we look at the factors that could have influenced our ability to meet our goals. This could include factors such as the addition of new staff that could potentially be resolved with retraining and education. It could be a lack of accessible supplies, or other resources or even the data collection tool. It depends on the study being conducted and the data being collected. That is the importance of having a quality team and analyzing the data."

Data collection poses a unique challenge for ASCs due to their relatively small size and limited resources. Most ASCs simply do not have the same funds compared to their hospital counterparts, so strategic resource allocating resources for data collection is key.

Although data collection takes a considerable amount of time, it is crucial for the sustainability of ASCs. It provides opportunities to improve care and is driving the current patient-centered healthcare market where reimbursements are often linked to patient satisfaction scores. Healthcare facilities simply cannot survive without prioritizing data collection.

"A great emphasis is placed on data collection," states Crissy Benze, RN, BSN, an ambulatory surgery center consultant. "Every ASC should have a robust and ongoing Quality Assessment and Performance Improvement program. Part of this is performance improvement, which includes data collection to look at the quality of care provided in the center. The data is collected and analyzed to see where the facility may have opportunity for improvement."

Data collection should be utilized in ASCs to drive actual change that will improve patient care. It is one thing to enter the information on a database, but the real leg work requires analyzing the data to implement change to improve quality care.

Ms. Benze says, "Data is collected and then analyzed for areas of improvement. Incident reporting is a good example of this. Incidents are tracked throughout the quarter and then analyzed for trends. Any trends should be dealt with to improve quality and patient safety. For example, if there were a couple of medication errors in a quarter, potential reasons should be determined. Then action should be taken, whether it is education or a change of practice/processes (i.e., labeling, physician orders, etc.)."

Education is key for updating staff members on areas of improvement or updated regulations that should be put into practice. However, data collection can additionally show whether education is enough or more measures should be taken to combat an issue.

Ms. Flor's ASC was facing an issue with excessive biohazard waste costing her facility a significant amount of money. Staff members were throwing away material with minimal amounts of blood into the biohazard waste bin, which was an unnecessary expense. After analyzing data, staff members were educated about the correct materials to throw in the biohazard waste bin. Education was the first step as members only implemented the change for a short duration of time. Ultimately, the biohazard bin was placed in a different area so staff members had to consider which materials were appropriate for biohazard waste disposal.

Data collection on this issue saved the ASC resources, and is a significant tool for ASC administrators. ASC administrators must be aware of the latest, most efficient tools for data collection to maximize the benefits. An ASC may be wasting valuable resources if they are not utilizing efficient ways to collect data, and may view data collection as a nuisance rather than a valuable tool.

Susan Cheek, CPA, CHCC, CASC, is the administrator of Dallas Endoscopy Center and IV Anesthesia Services. Additionally, she is the CEO and co-founder of Creative Empowering Solutions. Ms. Cheek explains, "A big challenge is being aware of what tools are available to make data collection streamlined and accessible. Human error also poses a challenge for data collection. Any time you have to rely on staff to collect and enter data, you have a chance for error and noncompliance."

The centers Ms. Cheek operates have implemented a system that can account for human error and works to correct any mistakes a staff member may have made when reporting data. This system provides a sense of accountability for staff members who will know who made a mistake and when.

Ms. Cheek says, "Chart Auditor is an electronic chart auditor that checks to ensure all aspects of the record are complete. We were doing manual audits, and we were catching errors, but our Automated Chart Auditor not only saved significant staff time and reduced redundancy and errors it also added an accountability element as the staff was more conscious of the fact that they individually were being monitored. In a matter of two months, we reduced our error rate from 97 percent to 100 percent."

Technology is a valuable tool and can catch errors humans make that they may not be aware of. The possibilities appear to be limitless for data collection and technology will continue to advance as new regulations are imposed to report different quality measures and other data.

Ms. Cheek says, "We have found that well-implemented data collection processes not only improves quality, but saves on staff time and redundancy of tasks. Data collection ultimately translates into cost savings if it is utilized efficiently."
As technology continues to rapidly advance, data collection will continue to be an integral part of healthcare. More regulations will be implemented mandating providers to report more data, thus requiring more resources being allotted to fulfill this function.

Ms. Flor expands on the future of data collection and the way in which more resources will be needed to meet regulations. She states, "I think more time will have to be allocated in the future as the ACA comes into play and they look at ASCs more critically. They're adding more quality measures every year. You are going to have to come up with a system and be good at it."

More on surgery centers:
Immediately improve profits at your ASC: 10 steps
Becoming a top ASC — Drs. Freddie Fu and MaCalus Hogan on survival in the evolving healthcare market
How to enhance revenue for physicians

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