It’s time for ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) to recognize that electronic health records (EHRs) are a necessity in today’s modern health environment. EHRs support the clinical mission, minimize paper, offer reminders, facilitate cross-vendor communication, reduce errors, streamline processes, allow for transparent information sharing, offer seamless and HIPAA compliant charting, increase automation, and improve integration, most important, improve patient safety and quality of care! That’s quite a laundry list of benefits. So what’s the hesitancy?
There were two main barriers that have delayed EHR adoption in the ASC market, even as they became standard in hospitals and other healthcare settings.
The first barrier was that regulatory structures that required EHRs in hospitals have included carve-outs to exempt surgery centers from these requirements – for example ASCs were not covered under the provisions of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009. ASCs did not face the same penalties for lack of meaningful use of EHRs and they do not have access to the same financial incentives to make adoption fiscally more appealing.
The second barrier was the culture within surgery centers, where things tend to be done the way they have always been done. Making a shift from paper to EHRs required significant changes to business practices and staff habits, and required a significant financial investment. It seemed like more risk than it was worth for many surgery centers.
But the tide has turned as the role of ASCs in meeting the demands of the healthcare system have skyrocketed over the past decade. In today’s healthcare market, it’s much riskier and more costly to continue to compete without an EHR than it is to implement one. Here are five reasons why:
EHRs today work better than the early 2000s editions. When the federal government initially subsidized e-chart adoption for hospitals, there were many different software platforms created to meet the demand. But these systems were clunky, designed for large hospital institutions, and incredibly expensive. And because they were designed for hospitals, the software did not make sense for ASC workflow or work well in a surgical setting. However, we’ve come a long way over the past two decades. There are now EHRs specifically designed for ASCs that meet the speed and dynamic nature of an ASC, permitting customized workflow, allowing concurrent charting at all times, and providing ongoing collaboration about patient care activities, potential risks, and treatment indicators. The systems available now are intuitive, with simple user interfaces, and importantly, have the ability to scale to meet new demands in patient volume and procedures.
EHRs allow scalability. Surgery center cases tend to be data-heavy, with scans and imaging files that must be saved somewhere. ASCs should not buy more file cabinets or pay for more offsite storage containers. The answer is the cloud. With the right EHR system that is cloud-based, a surgery center has the capacity to scale up their patient volume while managing the information that goes with it. Having an EHR system that is cloud-based allows a center to manage its information safely and securely, with room to grow, eliminating the need for physical storage.