GI/Endoscopy Center HIT: The Future is Here

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Medicine is entering the digital age and gastroenterology centers are just beginning to catch up. Some centers have an endoscopy report writer, but the platform has limited capabilities and doesn't meet meaningful use requirements. As a result, endoscopy centers and ASCs are beginning to turn to electronic health records to store detailed clinical information and enhance communication with other providers.

"The difference between the standalone endoscopy reporter and EHR for ASCs is that the EHR is a fully compliant meaningful use product that can effectively communicate with physician offices," says Joe Rubinsztain, CEO of gMed. "Going forward, one of the key aspects of meaningful use is patient engagement. Providers are looking for ways to communicate with patients beyond the ASC, and that will be critical for driving outcomes."

There currently aren't many EHRs that have a fully functional endoscopy reporter as part of their platform, which is critically important for an endoscopy center's success. A standard EHR will include complex functions unnecessary for endoscopy centers and complicate processes further.

"We have one of the very few meaningful use-compliant systems designed for gastroenterology," says Mr. Rubinsztain. "ASCs and endoscopy centers need a fully-functional EHR, not just a standalone endoscopy reporter in this new era of health IT."

Server vs. Cloud-based systems
In general, maintaining a technologically sophisticated healthcare record system takes an IT team, but most endoscopy centers don't have a big enough budget to hire IT staff, and its costly to lease a server. Instead, many centers now use Cloud-based systems to store data for a small subscription fee; it requires little upkeep.

"In the Cloud, you don't have to maintain a server, so it creates a big savings," says Mr. Rubinsztain. "Imagine a world that has a network of physicians that are documenting millions of procedures understanding what they are doing and what provides better outcomes. You can only answer these questions if you are living in a very large database and could answer these questions in real time. You eliminate the costs associated with managing the IT infrastructure with the Cloud and can give physicians feedback in real-time. We think being on the Cloud is the most logical approach as systems become more global."

The online resource also allows patients to interact with the endoscopy center, which can have significant process-related benefits. Patients can enter information such as:

•    Clinical history data
•    Current medications
•    Medication adherence
•    Patient satisfaction surveys

"If you have drug interaction and allergy alerts — which are part of being meaningful use certified — you're adding another layer of security to prevent medical errors and optimize patient outcomes," says Mr. Rubinsztain. "You'll know everything about the patient before they even come into the ASC. You can make sure they are taking the medications they need and help them improve outcomes."

Process improvement capabilities
EHRs also assist in process improvement. Fully integrated systems can calculate optimal billing codes for the procedure, monitor who is in touch with the patient before and after surgery,  track the percentage of bills paid in full and identify bottlenecks in the process. Endoscopy center operators can see how these bottlenecks impact patient satisfaction and operational outcomes, which all affect profitability.

"We collected insights from all over the United States and benchmarked different parameters for different centers," says Mr. Rubinsztain. "Centers will see how they compare to the national and regional average. It's important to know how your operations and payments compare to your peers. Complications, outcomes and patient satisfaction rates are also important, and we're working on benchmarks for them as well."

A final advantage for EHR systems is the time saved by eliminating duplication. Staff members will only enter patient information once. The information is automatically translated to other areas of the patient's chart so staff members spend less time copying information and asking patients the same question multiple times.

"These electronic systems also reduce human errors, which decreases the risk of complications," says Mr. Rubinsztain. "If you are meaningful use compliant, the system will ensure you don't skip any important documentation steps and everything you enter matches."

Currently, the government requires providers to document procedures using a complete EHR certified for meaningful use when 50 percent or more of their patients are seen at an ASC. "These regulations aren't going to get better, they'll only grow stricter," says Mr. Rubinsztain. "If they don't jump on the bandwagon, they'll be penalized."

This article is sponsored by gMed.

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