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6 Tech Tips to Streamline Processes and Save Money in the Coming Year

Kevin McDonaldWith 2014 quickly approaching, many ASC managers and owners are likely reevaluating their use of technology as they plan for the coming year.

If they aren't, they should be. For those facilities that aren't moving forward with technology they will likely fall behind as competition in the industry increases, budgets get tighter and regulatory requirements demand greater documentation.

Technology is rapidly changing how healthcare is delivered; it is streamlining processes and enhancing patient care. With the right technology in place, significant financial and operational benefits can be achieved. To ensure facilities are taking advantage of the latest technology has to offer, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the many ways facilities are benefiting from technology today.

1.    Patient Flow Tracking. A standard feature in most ASC-specific software platforms, but rarely utilized, is the patient-flow tracker. This feature allows family members as well as clinical staff to track patients through each stage of the surgical procedure without consulting the front desk or having to adjust white boards in the clinical area. Information is typically displayed on a flat screen on the wall in the waiting room and in prominent locations throughout the clinical areas. To maintain HIPAA compliance, families are given a code or number to identify their patient on the schedule. In addition to increased patient and staff satisfaction as well as providing peace-of-mind to family members, staff members spend significantly less time answering patient-related questions.

2.    Patient/Provider Messaging. Messaging technology offers facilities the ability to interact with patients and physicians via automated text messaging. Using this technology, facilities can send alerts to patients to remind them of upcoming appointment times as well as provide patient instructions and directions to the facility. It can also be used to provide physicians notification of patient arrival. The benefits associated with using this technology include reduced patient no-shows and fewer day-of-surgery cancellations due to not following instructions. Additional benefits included increased physician satisfaction and less time spent by nursing staff on reminder phone calls.

3.    Online Nursing Assessments. Internet-based pre-admission systems are enabling facilities to save significant nursing time by breaking down the complex task of creating a medical history into a series of simple steps that patients can easily complete at their convenience. Instead of having to create an entire health history for each patient, nurses simply review each patient's history. No more playing phone tag with patients or incomplete histories because patients are unprepared at the time of the call. Because patients have the necessary information in front of them when filling in their medical histories, information is much more complete and accurate, thus eliminating day-of-surgery surprises which can cause costly delays and cancellations.

4.    Electronic Health Record (EHR). EHR systems enable facilities to automate the manual paper process for patient charting. EHR adoption rates are increasing and paper-based facilities will soon be in the minority. Facilities that do not adopt an EHR will have increasing difficulty with data transfers (from physician offices, to facilities and from facility to facility). Attracting surgeons and nurses to facilities using antiquated paper processes will also become a difficult task.

5.    Automated Information Exchange. Information exchange technology allows facilities to connect with a surgeon's financial and EHR systems to transfer such data as demographics, H&Ps, documents, and images directly to the facility's software. In addition to increased satisfaction from referring physician offices, additional benefits include the elimination of lost documents and faxing.

6.    Automated Eligibility Verification. By deploying automated eligibility checking technology, facilities can reduce the time staff spend verifying insurance eligibility by up to 80 percent. A fully automated solution will manage all of the workflow around insurance verification. In addition to automatically checking benefits at the time of booking, the system will alert staff to any changes prior to the date of surgery.

For ASC owners and managers worried about the burden of maintaining and monitoring technology, cloud computing is an attractive, cost-effective model to consider. Cloud deployments enable ASCs to get up and running quickly with reduced upfront investment as the only thing needed is an Internet connection. IT resources are provided, removing the burden and costs associated with purchasing, monitoring, and maintaining the applications and servers. Security risks are better managed as well. Additionally, cloud computing offers an easier path to upgrade to more advanced software solutions including an EHR system.

Kevin McDonald is a Senior Vice President at SourceMedical.SourceMedical provides outpatient information solutions and revenue cycle management services for ambulatory surgery centers, specialty hospitals and rehabilitation clinics nationwide. Contact the author at

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