Vice President of Clinical Strategies
Electronic Medical Records (EMR/EHR), prevalent in both physician practices and hospitals, are finally making their way into the ambulatory surgery center (ASC) space in a big way. Although it is not clear how many ASCs are using an EHR or how each center defines an EHR, in a recent poll held by ASCA, 55% of respondents stated they have some form of an EHR. This result was similar to the Definitive Healthcare1 result with about 50% claiming they have an EHR. For those centers not using an EHR, they stated it’s due to costs and lack of federal/state mandates. However, with increased utilization of the ASC space for surgical and procedural care and the ever-growing need to communicate patient health care information across all avenues of care, this reasoning is becoming obsolete. The growing need for healthcare access combined with consumer’s constant exposure to technology and reliance on immediate, mobile access to everything has created a tipping point for EHR adoption.
Reason #1: Cost – The Price Tag is Lower Than You Think
The cost of EHR technology and its implementation in the ASC space is not the million-dollar price tag that hospitals face. There are EHRs that are specifically designed for ASCs, and they are a small hammer to the larger software companies’ anvil. By selecting an EHR built for an ASC, you’ll find the processes around billing and documentation of care, and the learning curve is different from those built for hospitals.
The ROI for utilizing EHRs is measurable. Using an ROI calculator based on cases per month, number of ORs, and ancillary employees per case will clearly demonstrate that the time wasted in shuffling paper, completing paperwork, filing paper, and preserving paper charts far outweighs the cost of an EHR. The additional employee hours spent leafing through the paper chart to find the data necessary to submit to specialty, state, and federal agencies must also be considered. Additionally, in a time where everyone is concerned about the environment, the contribution of paper charts to your facility’s carbon footprint cannot be overlooked.
Reason #2: Information Sharing – Interoperability is Here to Stay
This year’s changes to the CMS list of approved outpatient surgeries will increase the already growing number of cases performed in ASCs. This rapid shift will highlight the lack of interoperability/sharable data for centers not utilizing EHR technologies. The Cures Act of 2020 lays out the plan for coordinating care now and in the future. EHR vendors are working towards the FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource) and API (application programming interface) goals, including a shared data set definition for this collaborative approach. This will facilitate the interoperability of all electronic health technologies with each other and with Health Information Exchanges. Centers are also being pressured to provide free access to the patient’s medical record in a timely manner. EHRs allow this seamlessly via patient portals and data sharing APIs.
Reason #3: Recruitment – Get the Providers and Patients You Want
Administrative considerations are not the only changes to the ASC landscape. Lack of utilizing an EHR tailored for the ASC space affects the ability to recruit new providers and new patient streams. Savvy patients have begun to demand access to records, resources, and an interactive approach to care. Providers need the ability to communicate with patients, centers, and the care team to develop a more collaborative approach to surgery and recovery. Clinical strategies moving forward must include this access.
Next Step? Embracing an EHR.
The number of outpatient surgical procedures in the US is expected to grow from ~129 million procedures in 2018 to ~144 million procedures by 2023.2 If you’re already struggling to make your processes work with your current caseload, are you prepared for growth? It is time to embrace the new EHRs made for the ASC space. The targeted approach to meeting the needs of this very specific care location has taken advantage of all the lessons learned from the earlier behemoth EHR.
Used by clients nationwide, HST eChart is the leading EHR solution in the ASC industry.
1 Definitive Healthcare
2 Business Wire
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