ASCs and health IT: Ideas that work

As the healthcare IT arena continues to develop and improve, ASCs must be properly equipped to meet these ongoing changes. At the Becker's ASC 23rd Annual Meeting in Chicago, three panelists outlined IT-related challenges ASCs face, as well as thoughts on the future of technology in the ambulatory space.

Patients today mostly engage in ASCs' technology via online registrations and the ASC's individual website. "Maintain a professional and interactive website," said Chuck Meisel, Dallas-based Surgical Notes' vice president of sales. "That's simple — it's like basic blocking and tackling today."

Perhaps more surprising is that it's not just millennial patients who are engaging in ASCs' technology. Daren Smith, Alpharetta, GA-based AmkaiSolutions' senior clinical solutions specialist, said that at the previous center he worked for, patients over the age of 60 constituted the most frequent users of the center's online features. Contrary to popular belief, busy moms and younger generations weren't using the features as often.

Unfortunately, ASCs that haven't fully adopted IT are facing difficulties, both fiscally and otherwise. "You're running on a shoestring," said Mr. Smith. "We see a lot of money juggling."

"Not just money juggling, but also knowledge juggling," added Margaret Acker, RN, CEO of Jackson, Mich.-based Blake Woods Medical Park Surgery Center. "To take people who did not grow up in a computer era and then given they a tablet and say, 'do your job' is a challenge. Hopefully we'll outgrow it as time goes on."

But even ASCs that do have IT systems in place encounter major inefficiencies. "The inefficiency that we're not interconnected would probably be the biggest one I see," said Ms. Acker. Mr. Meisel and Mr. Smith both agreed that ASCs that don't utilize technology to its maximum potential represent one of the key inefficiencies of health IT in the ambulatory space.

To counter these issues, the panelists offered three primary solutions:

  • Plan. "The old adage, 'If you fail to plan, you plan to fail' is very applicable to the EMR world," said Ms. Acker. She advised attendees to take their time throughout the implementation and planning processes. "You get out what you put in," she added.
  • Explore. Rather than rushing into a relationship with an IT provider, it's wise to explore your options. "Everybody here probably uses somebody local for IT support," Mr. Meisel said. "Take a look at who you're using and see if you can find another company that provides more thorough services. You might also find you can save money."
  • Learn. Implementing an IT system isn't a one-off job. "Once you go through implementation, keep up on all your education," said Mr. Smith. "Use it to its fullest capability."

New ideas are constantly emerging in the health IT space. Which IT developments will present original ideas for ASCs? "Cost transparency is what we're going to be seeing," said Mr. Smith. "Hospitals have been seeing that, but it hasn't happened as fast as we thought it would in the ASC environment."

Ultimately, though, Mr. Meisel believes a huge IT disruption in the ambulatory space has yet to occur. "There's nothing like an Uber for the surgery center market," he said.

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