With the overtures of President Obama in the early days of his administration of developing a plan to streamline the entire healthcare industry, the move is clearly on to switch to electronic medical records and electronic health records (EMRs/EHRs). So SurgiStrategies asked a panel of experts for their thoughts on EMRs and EHRs, and how they can help your practice enjoy a smooth transition.
With the push by the Obama Administration to use EMRs/EHRs, how important is it to begin using them and why?
Beyond the fact that regulatory requirements are starting to trend towards electronic health records (EHRs), there are many other reasons adopting an EHR system makes sense for an ambulatory surgery center (ASC).
EHRs help lower facility and operational costs. In addition to eliminating the need for chart rooms and storage, they also free-up valuable staff so they no longer have to physically prepare charts for procedures.
A well managed EHR system can also help implement a standard workflow that can be continuous, regardless of staff turnover. Therefore staff departures will not disrupt the workflow/system. It also helps decrease ramp-up time for new staff.
The biggest benefit to implementing an EHR system is the ability to deliver higher quality care. EHRs provide more accurate monitoring of patient count and medical requirements while providing centers the ability to enforce their own clinical policies and procedures.
Yet despite the many benefits EHRs offer, widespread adoption remains slow within the ASC community. Many ASCs are reluctant to move forward for fear of implementations that are non-conducive to an ASC workflow.
Vice President of Sales
What I’ve seen so far, it’s important to prepare to implement EMRs in ambulatory surgery centers, but a larger question remains: will ASCs receive any funds for EMRs? The Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) may be the certification body used by the federal government used to determine which entities (including ASCs) will receive funding for implementing these systems. Historically, CCHIT has been focused on two parts of the industry — hospitals and physician’s offices, in the process neglecting ASCs. It’s one of those things that can be lost in the shuffle, so be careful to talk about EMRs and electronic health records (EHRs) under the auspices of no reimbursement. Contact your local Congressman and CCHIT to be sure that ASCs get their fair share of IT funding.
Director of Marketing and Co-Founder
ProVation Medical/Wolters Kluwer Health
All ambulatory surgery centers should be looking at some sort of EMR as the new administration pushes for this. Like many government accreditation programs, the push toward EMR is only a suggestion, but historically the government will take certain funding away as an additional motivation to comply with the suggestion. As we all know, the Joint Commission cannot shut a hospital down, as it has no direct authority, but hospitals that lose their accreditation also lose Medicare. We can only speculate at this point what incentives either positive or negative, that the current administration would put in place to accomplish the EMR goal for ASCs.
Outside of the push by the government to promote EMRs throughout the United States, it makes good business sense as well. Any ambulatory surgery center that can create a more efficient scheduling, check-in, reordering procedure, and check-out will be ahead of the game. As the government continues to push this, ambulatory surgery centers will need to stay competitive, and those that can’t produce a patient’s record, or specific billing electronically, will start to lose their competitive edge. I would not recommend anyone ignore this trend.
Chief Executive Officer
What are some factors in determining which new EMR system is right for your practice?
Factors to consider in determining which EMR system is right for a surgicenter include: ease of implementation for clinical staff, office staff, and providers, a short purchase to implementation timeframe, adaptability of the system without costly customization, interface capability with practice management and/or surgery center software, and security. Consideration should also be given to educating staff in the differences that they will encounter with Electronic documentation and paper as well as policies and procedures related to the use of the EMR on a day to day basis as well as procedures to follow when the EMR system may be unavailable due to disasters and loss of power. A center should also assess the ability to integrate with its community health information network.
Ronald W. Cousino, Jr.
Director of Client Relations
Experior Healthcare Systems
How easy is it for ambulatory surgery centers to implement a new EMR system?
Considering all the problems that surgical centers face, implementing an EMR system is the easy part. It’s the planning and follow through that are the most difficult. Implementing an electronic document management (EDM) solution to digitally store all existing paper charts will increase the chance of a successful EMR deployment.
The following provides an overview of the problems surgical centers face and the solutions that can be found with a best-of-class EDM system. Also provided here are tips to help make informed decisions about selecting a document management system that will serve a center’s needs.
Problems that Surgical Centers Face:
Many surgical centers have trouble maintaining record integrity and adequate confidentiality with paper records. They also face issues of:
- Security and Confidentially — HIPAA and AAAHC regulations must be adhered to.
- Misfiled patient charts — This can led to lost time, inadequate patient care, and disorganized reputation. Overwhelming workloads — Paperwork unmanaged can be overwhelming
- Increasing Expenses
- Storage Costs — They keep going up.
- Compliance Issues
- Growing pains — For many, case loads have almost doubled over a 5-year period.
- Lack of time to learn a new system — It is important to select a system that is quick to learn and easy to implement where ongoing support is provided.
- Lack of money for a new system — It is best to select a system that is established, has many good references, is inexpensive, yet scalable so that you can grow your system as budgets allows.
Solutions Provided by a Best-of-Class EDM Solution:
- Compliance with HIPAA and AAHC regulations
- Improved Collections
- Scalability as company grows
- Fewer staff needed to handle records
- Record Integrity
- Reduced Expenses
- Quick Return on Investment
- Easy to learn
- Can be Implemented Quickly
- Improved Revenue Cycle
- Improved Patient Relations
- Departments Merged
- Release of Information
- Peace of Mind
Healthcare Marketing Specialist