Everyone wants to get more out of their increasingly limited resources we all face today. Using technologies throughout ambulatory surgery centers can help deploy personnel on more productive activities. Many technology solutions are offered by your distributors to help you gain efficiencies throughout your organization. These solutions extend far beyond just ordering supplies. We spoke with Scott McDade, vice president of surgery centers at McKesson Medical Surgical, to address several questions relating to how ASCs can best use technology to improve their efficiency.
Q: Materials management is the most obvious place to start where medical supply distributors can help increase efficiencies. Where should an administrator begin looking across their organization to identify where they need help?
Scott McDade: Ordering online offers a number of benefits that are just not available through any other means. Your distributors' websites will likely provide real-time product availability, so you know right away what products you order are going to be filled right away. More advanced websites offer features and tools to help you quickly identify cost-savings alternatives, such as private label items or other national brands that can help you reduce expenses. Make sure you look for a distributor that can provide med-surg items and pharmaceutical items from the same website and on the same order so your finance department is only processing one transaction. This is an important step to consider if saving time is an important initiative for you and your ASC.
Q: What other technologies can help save time and effort in the ordering process?
SM: Look for rapid order guides and purchasing lists within the ordering site. Those provide a simple step in that direction. If you really want to gain efficiency, you should use barcode scanning technology. The scanners allow you to move directly into the storage room to assess inventory levels, scan items and enter quantities — no more notepads are needed to write down item numbers and this approach is more accurate than reentering the numbers into an order form. Just return the scanner to the docking station and automatically upload the items directly into the distributor's ordering site. Really good scanners will display the item description and unit of measure to help you eliminate errors and get the products you need.
You'd be amazed how much time this could save. For example, in a recent case study of a multi-specialty surgery center performing 2,000-plus cases per year, the materials manager spent 16 hours per week, nearly half of the time, manually creating supply orders. After implementing barcode scanning technology, the ASC realized an estimated 60 percent reduction in hours spent processing orders, which included assessing inventory levels, resulting in an annual savings of over $19,000.
Q: What do you suggest centers look for to help them manage the forms and red tape involved in ordering pharmaceuticals?
SM: Consolidating as much as possible would be my recommendation. Does your vendor allow you to do as much as you can with one technology? Bouncing from one site to the next is not the best use of staff time
And regulatory forms — no one likes filling out DEA 222 forms to order schedule II controlled substances. Talk about time consuming and frustrating! The DEA has established an automated process for approving electronic orders of schedule II pharmaceuticals called CSOS, which stands for controlled substance ordering system. Your vendor should offer a CSOS ordering system that is seamlessly integrated with their med-surg supply ordering system. The benefits of this paperless option are huge! These include fewer errors, unlimited items in each order, faster processing and decreased transaction costs — this one technology alone could help save hours in staff time and duplication of effort.
Q: How do all these systems talk to each other? It sounds like a lot of logging in and out and back in again. Where is the efficiency there?
SM: Short answer: connectivity. Having accurate case cost and preference card information is critical to your surgery center and helps lead to better business decisions. Your vendor should offer you the ability to connect directly with your practice management systems. This solution alone increases the accuracy of information and delivers time-saving efficiencies by eliminating manual processes. Imagine entering your order into your practice management system and you are done! No more printing of hard copies and re-keying the order into another site. Materials managers can enter the order one time. Connectivity also feeds order confirmation and pricing updates directly back into your system to help improve the accuracy of your case costing information and streamline your accounting functions. This is another simple way to improve business performance.
Q: Those are some good solutions to help with efficiency within the facility. What are some technologies that can help with patient interactions and satisfaction?
SM: Three areas come to mind where technology can help improve patient interactions. Insurance verification is perhaps most important — knowing that you are going to get paid. It's also important for patients to know what their obligation is prior to performing the procedure. Patient eligibility solutions can help maximize reimbursement and reduce claim denials by verifying insurance coverage and patient co-pays in real-time. This can not only save time for your staff, but also help identify patients who may be unable to pay. Another simple and seamless way to increase business performance!
Q: So what's another option?
SM: ePrescribing. Making things easy for the patient is key to patient satisfaction. Not to mention it will also save staff time and provide a more secure process for managing prescriptions. With ePrescribing you can transmit patient's prescriptions directly to their preferred pharmacy so the prescription is ready when they arrive — this means no paper scripts, no phone calls and less chance of prescription errors.
Q: With the increased focus on HIPAA compliance and electronic health records, what's available to help doctors and facilities communicate with patients?
SM: Secure communications with patients and between facilities is imperative and can be tricky. Patient portals are available and offer a secure environment for doctors to post patient results, answer questions and even request payments — all with complete documentation. These portals can also be a solution for facilities to interact with each other regarding patient status, referral information and follow-up. Efficiency and security is a great combination.
Learn more about McKesson Medical Surgical's ASC solutions at www.asc.mckesson.com.