Why ASCs must embrace scheduling technology to boost efficiency

Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs) are booming. There are more than 5,400 ASCs throughout the U.S. performing around 23 million procedures a year. And their numbers are growing. In 2016 alone, almost 90 new centers were established across the country – and for good reason.   

Proving that, when it comes to healthcare, bigger isn’t always better. While there is a long list of reasons for patients to opt for ASCs over hospitals – including smaller size and more intimate and personalized care – patients are also treated in new, clean facilities, often with brand new, state-of-the-art equipment.

However, the glossy outward appearance of many ASCs often masks a behind-the-scenes reality stuck firmly in the 20th century.

Despite having incredible equipment and paraphernalia in the operating room, many ASCs still rely heavily on pen and paper (seriously!) and not enough on scheduling technology that could greatly increase their efficiency – most importantly – bottom line.

ASCs are stuck in the 20th Century with paperwork

It’s not uncommon for records to be transferred by hand, and files physically moved (to the back-office upstairs!) within the same building. Some schedulers are even entering dates in an appointment book (yes, they still make those) or inputting data into various computerized scheduling systems that were not designed to manage surgeries. This means there is the potential not only for vital information or patient histories to literally slip through the cracks (not to mention HIPAA infringements), but also for valuable operating time to be going unused.

This case was spotted at an ASC in 2016;

it is being used to transport files

Even when ASCs do use technologies to schedule and coordinate surgeries, it’s typically a hotchpotch of programs and systems, and staff still struggle to share information with the back office at the practice. And equally critical, they are unable to share data with other important players in the field – such as equipment vendors – to ensure the operating rooms are supplied and cleared on time.

Surgery scheduling systems can drastically increase efficiency & transparency

So, what can a dedicated surgical scheduling system do? In addition to ensuring that surgeries are scheduled efficiently and records kept up-to-date, using the right software has the knock-on effect of eliminating down time and wasted slots in the OR. It also means that the optimal number of surgeries are scheduled each day, cuts down overheads, and eliminates unnecessary expenses on ‘light’ or ‘no surgery’ days.

It also allows busy surgeons to easily track and monitor their schedules, as the information is shared and updated in real-time, and can even be accessed on their cell phone. Knowing exactly when their blocks are at the ASC lets them better coordinate their block time at other hospitals. With all the information they need at their fingertips, surgeons can also make changes to their personal schedules without creating panic or disruption to everyone else in the office.

But it’s not just the surgeons who get a better picture of their schedule. Everyone involved in the surgery – nurses, anesthesiologists and equipment vendors – can easily track schedules and be alerted to any changes so no-one’s time is wasted.

And, let’s not forget the other crucial element in the equation – the patients. Having an up-to-date scheduling system means that they can leave their initial appointment at the practice with a confirmed surgery date in hand. No more waiting, checking, phone tag or whatever else happens in the labyrinthine hospital system.

It’s time for ASCs to embrace technology

When it comes down to it, no matter how many top-notch surgeries they perform, or how intimate and effective the care they provide – until ASCs fully embrace technology, their potential for growth – financially and volume of procedures – will be stunted.

Rather than trying to force a bunch of outdated programs or even PM or EHR systems ‘fit’ your scheduling workflow, the best thing to do is to start over and investigate specialized scheduling solutions for your particular ASC’s needs.

Doing so will not only free up valuable staff time for doing work other than double- or triple-inputting information, but more importantly it will get everyone on the same – electronic – page when it comes to patient care.

SEE RELATED: Case study: One calendar shared between the office with ASC

VP Marketing | + posts

Laura brings a wealth of experience to Surgimate, having spent over seven years heading the marketing at Mavim, a leading company in the field of process management and mining.

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