Get Help, Not Headaches, from New Technology

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Get Help, Not Headaches, from New Technology

Choose integrated systems that are easy to use

As we prepare to head into the second half of 2018, the market forces helping to define ASC business decisions and operations this year are clear. Value-based care still sits atop health care organizations’ to-do lists, as does maintaining operational revenue amid shrinking payment margins. Patients continue to expect a high level of service, including easy access to appointments and compassionate communication from providers. As these trends evolve, many ASCs are feeling the pressure to improve performance and are turning to technology for assistance. Unfortunately, not all tools are effective at enhancing clinical care and streamlining operations. In some cases, automated solutions can complicate existing processes, adding hurdles instead of providing answers.


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Consider the following to avoid common pitfalls when sifting through technology options.

Facilitating better patient care through the electronic medical record (EMR): It is no small task to move an ASC away from paper and into an electronic system that captures patient information and supports sound clinical care. Even if an organization already has a system in place and is moving to another, a smooth tranisition can be a tall order. As such, it is imperative that the software you select fully meets your facilities’ needs.

Specialty providers, in particular, need to look beyond off-the-shelf options that offer generic content. Typically, these will have extra data and functionality you don’t need and lack the information that you do need. On the other hand, solutions offering an extensive amount of customization options can cause challenges in the long run because a completely customized option might not be easily updatable. While a hyper-specific solution for your organization sounds great, it could provide a barrier to better, improved functionality down the road.

When it comes to an EMR, we recommend finding a product that has functionality and features to meet about 90 percent of your specialty’s needs, while maintaining a solid framework to facilitate a fast and easy update, if needed. If yours is a multiple-specialty ASC, keep that in mind as you determine the content, again balancing the needs for the various specialties with the ability to easily keep the solution current.

Cloud-based solutions can be beneficial since these let multiple users interact with the same software, enabling smooth information sharing, which can help with value-based care. Patients exist one time within the system, and multiple surgeons and other clinical staff can access the same record, creating a more longitudinal offering. Even a physician who is not in his or her office can access the EMR to field a patient question. Storing the software on the cloud also eliminates burdensome upgrades, as the technology is maintained by the vendor, so the organization is always using the most current version.

Looking for tools that can share information with other technology systems is also wise. Since different physician practices feeding into an ASC may have different systems, it is helpful if they can “speak” to one another. Finding a tool that goes beyond just sharing the required continuity of care document (C-CDA)—which is often unwieldy and cumbersome—is important. The more a system can share relevant data in an easy-to-interpret format, the better.

Foster meaningful relationships via the patient portal: A robust EMR will include a patient portal through which clinicians can communicate with patients, sharing critical information, answering questions and providing educational materials. A portal should be easy for physicians to use. Receiving and sending messages should be a natural part of workflow, so surgeons and their staff can stay in contact with patients without getting pulled off task.

If a portal is too cumbersome, physicians won’t use it—and then it can cause more problems than it solves. For example, if patients send messages through a portal but don’t receive responses in a timely manner, patients can quickly become frustrated. Similarly, if patients are told they will receive important information through the portal but don’t, they can experience anxiety and dissatisfaction. Moreover, the patient will probably call the surgery center to get answers, taking time away from administrative and clinical staff and defeating the purpose of the portal. If a patient portal is simple for both patients and providers, however, and the organization fully leverages it to share information, it can be a highly beneficial tool in improving patient communication and driving satisfaction.

Optimizing business processes with operations management solutions: In addition to using technology to improve the clinical side, automated solutions also can help providers optimize business functions, including scheduling, billing and record keeping. Although surgery centers can employ different software tools to independently handle these tasks, using multiple systems can result in disjointed processes that are time-consuming and ineffective. On the other hand, organizations that use integrated solutions, where each of the components seamlessly interact, can save time and money while preventing information from slipping through the cracks. For instance, strong platforms can streamline patient scheduling by merging all surgeon schedules into one location, clearly revealing surgical availability.

Integrated operations management solutions also can improve billing by offering coding assistance to ensure that claims leave clean, maximizing reimbursement and limiting the likelihood of denials and rejections. These tools can also run reports that show areas of strength and opportunities for improvement, allowing organizations to continually enhance performance over time.

Right Tools Drive Progress

Implementing technology for the sake of technology is never wise as it can add complications instead of providing solutions. However, when ASCs do their due diligence and select customizable products that seamlessly integrate to provide a one-stop-shop for improving performance, they can start making progress in responding to the current trends that continue to remold the health care landscape.

Dan Montzka, MD, is the chief medical officer and Tera Roy is the vice president of business development at Nextech in Tampa, Florida. Write them at or

The advice and opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors and do not represent official Ambulatory Surgery Center Association policy or opinion.