3 common missteps in ASC software implementation + more key insights

Tom Hui, founder and CEO of ASC software company HST Pathways, spoke to Becker's ASC Review about introducing new software, common missteps in the process and trends that will accelerate ASC adoption of new technology.

Note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: For ASCs looking to adopt new technology, where do you think they should start?

Tom Hui: ASCs should first take a hard look at why they wanted to pursue new technology in the first place and keep that top of mind when exploring their options. For centers accustomed to using a certain type of technology and switching to a new platform, there's often resistance at some point because staff are so ingrained in the old way of doing things, even when it's less efficient. ASCs should view the process as an opportunity to really look at how they've been doing things and determine if there's a better way. For example, ASCs moving to an EHR need to make sure that they have good processes in place. If they're doing things wrong already, automation will shine a bright light on those areas quickly. Pre-charting or capturing signatures after the case are some examples of things that will get attention once an electronic process starts to timestamp actions.

Q:  What do you think ASCs get wrong when implementing new technology?

TH: There are three major missteps ASCs often take. All of these are easily fixable with the right mix of preparedness and leadership. The first misstep is lack of ownership. Rarely does a designated person or small team of people see the implementation process through from start to finish. Without a champion owning the success of implementation, the process will ultimately lead to a failed project. The second misstep is a lack of resources. There are a lot of moving parts that go into the process of implementing new technology. Staff are also often tasked with overseeing implementation on top of their normal job duties. Sufficiently allocating time is critical to ensure that projects aren't put off indefinitely. The final common error ASCs make is not committing to training, or underestimating the time needed for staff to fully understand new technology. Giving staff sufficient time to learn how to use the new system, understand all of the features available and troubleshoot any issues they're experiencing has a great return on investment in the long run. Insufficient training can leave people feeling frustrated.

Q: What trends will accelerate technology adoption in the ASC space?

TH: A few factors will likely accelerate ASC adoption of technology for clinical systems in the near-term. CMS recently published the Interoperability and Patient Access final rule. One of the mandates is that healthcare providers must provide patients with access to their entire medical record at no cost. For an ASC still relying on paper record-keeping, a patient request would involve searching through hundreds of documents, pulling the record, photocopying it, putting it in an envelope and mailing it to the patient. That's not a secure or efficient way to do things, nor is it cost-effective. ASCs planning on scanning and emailing patient records will still need to ensure that the emails they are sending are encrypted in order to comply with patient data protection laws. They could alternatively use a technology platform that allows patients to use a secure portal to be able to access their files remotely in a cost-efficient manner, while still fulfilling CMS requirements.

Another element that will accelerate ASC adoption of technology is government agencies requiring even more data submission in the future, not less. Good public health and economic policies rely on available and timely data, so we can expect more regulatory policies that encourage aggregate data-sharing from a wider network of healthcare providers, including ASCs.

Finally, the return on investment that comes with implementing sound technological solutions will naturally drive ASCs toward adoption. While there are certainly long-term savings resulting from more efficient health center operations and the ability to implement quality improvement programs, ASCs are also able to achieve significant savings in the short term. For example, using EHRs (like HST Pathways' HSTeChart) instead of paper significantly reduces the amount of time nurses spend on health record upkeep. The cost savings is in most cases on par with or more than the cost of the technology itself.

More articles on surgery centers:
How SCA, Tenet, Surgery Partners are weathering the COVID-19 pandemic & more — 11 ASC industry notes
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Colorado ASC loses 85% of cases to COVID-19 pandemic

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