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Three keys to maximizing ROI on an ASC’s record system

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Ambulatory surgery centers are beginning to see the light when it comes to electronic health record systems.

Although the federal government has not yet mandated EHR use for ASCs, the healthcare landscape has changed enough that it is time for surgery centers to look at the return on investment that an electronic records system can provide.

Among other benefits, EHRs can support enhanced clinical workflow, improve patient outcomes, save organizations the cost of storing and retrieving paper patient charts and provide accurate case costing. If an ASC is considering implementing an EHR to replace its old paper charting system, it’s important to remember that process is just as important as product.

A misguided implementation process can erase the benefits that it hopes to gain through EHR deployment. Here are three process considerations that will help ASCs maximize the ROI on an EHR investment.

Organizational leadership is critical
The ASC can’t maximize the return on an EHR investment if nobody is using it. It will need one or more technology champions to facilitate the EHR adoption process. Find people within the organization who understand the benefits of EHR adoption and who are willing to talk about those benefits with their peers—physicians, nurses and office staff—within the organization.

Identify and engage power users who will learn the system well, and who can enthusiastically encourage and help others in the organization to master the new software. It’s one thing to hear the vendor talk about the features and functionality of the new solution (although training and customer support is an important consideration). It’s another thing to hear a fellow nurse talk about how much more quickly she is able to complete her end-of-day chart reviews now that she is using the new EHR.

Finally, think through expectations for using the new system. An ASC won’t be able to maximize ROI if only half the physicians using the facility are using the new system or if half the nursing staff declares they are sticking with paper charts. Everybody—from physicians to anesthesiologists to nursing staff to business staff—needs to participate to see the greatest return on the EHR investment.

Evaluate your workflow
The point of moving to an EHR is not simply to replicate an existing inefficient workflow. To maximize ROI, the ASC needs to be willing to rigorously evaluate its existing processes before implementing an EHR system.

Is the current clinical workflow working as well as it could be? Or are there inefficiencies and work-arounds built into the current system? Where could the ASC make improvements to workflow apart from EHR deployment? Being open to workflow process and realignment will help it optimize operational efficiency.

It’s also important to find an EHR solution that will accommodate the organization’s unique workflow. ASCs are typically better off using an EHR solution specifically designed for the ASC industry. An EHR designed for an inpatient enterprise is less likely to align smoothly with its unique workflow.

Consider a natively integrated EHR solution
In addition to workflow optimization, a big selling point for EHRs is data collection. Data collection facilitates data analysis, which can inform operational decision making in ways that directly impact revenue generation and cost savings.

That’s why it might be worth considering a natively integrated EHR solution. The majority of ASCs are already using practice management solutions that facilitate business management tasks, such as scheduling, inventory management, billing and more. A natively integrated EHR solution can integrate practice management data (for example, inventory management) with clinically generated information (the exact supplies used in a specific procedure) in a way that produces data helpful in enterprise analysis.

In another example, an integrated practice management/EHR solution may be better equipped to generate precise case-costing data, which, in turn, could be leveraged in contract negotiations with payers.

The features and functionality of the EHR solution an ASC chooses will have a critical impact on the ROI of the investment. At the same time, be aware of key considerations of the implementation process—organizational leadership, workflow and solution integration—that have the potential to either optimize or derail an EHR investment. Process and product are equally important.

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