There’s a fine art to scheduling surgery. Unfortunately, many practices are limiting themselves by not using the most appropriate technology. We understand why practices try to use their EHRs to manage tasks for scheduling surgery. EHRs cost. A lot. Given that EHRs are such a heavy investment, why not use it for surgery scheduling?
Coupled with this, widespread use of EHRs is a new phenomenon. Meaningful Use completely flipped the industry so that within the space of a decade, the use of EHRs went from 10% to almost 90% among doctors offices in the USA. But after shelling out that much for an EHR, it’s often a shock for doctors to realize they need to add on other systems to their arsenal.
It’s true, EHRs can do some of the basic tasks associated with scheduling surgery. You might just need to bend over backwards, and then do five backflips. Jokes aside, there’s a host of reasons it’s time to let your EHR to do what it was designed to do, and does really really well – and that is, manage clinical data.
EHRs are great at storing clinical data, but fall short when it comes to reporting on it. Tracking what’s still needed to process a surgery and ensure the patient is cleared for surgery is not something EHRs can easily do. Schedulers have to keep track of authorizations, clearances, H&Ps, PATs and EKGs, just to name a few. And that’s before anything complicated comes up. Once you’re dealing with cancellations or rescheduling, fuhgeddaboudit it.
It’s also a challenge to track insurance and reimbursements associated with surgery inside an EHR. You might be able to write notes inside each record, but there is no way to report on these notes, and view everything in one snapshot. There’s also no capability to view all upcoming surgeries that require precertification or surgeries that are ready to be processed for billing. All of which means crucial info might be missed… and real $$ in revenue literally slip through the cracks.
Calendars & Mobile Access
Many practices resort to using their Practice Management System’s calendar to manage their surgical calendar. The thing is, PMS calendars are designed for in-office appointment scheduling, but they can’t deal with the complexity of surgical scheduling such as managing multiple hospitals and ASCs, juggling doctors block time, filling in last minute cancellations; all of which are daily occurrences at any surgical practice. As a result, many practices with EHR and PM systems still resort to using good ol’ paper calendars – often one for each surgeon at the practice – for scheduling surgery.
Then there’s providing surgeons with mobile access to their surgical schedule as well as integrating with their personal calendar. PMS calendars do not integrate with Outlook, Google or other third-party calendars. This often leads to double or triple inputting information or having crucial details going AWOL, and let’s not even mention exposing PHI.
Just as importantly, there’s a strong possibility your EHR won’t allow your surgeons to view their schedules in a HIPAA-compliant way on their mobiles. Not only is this a big no-no, it could also cause avoidable scheduling snafus, and who has time for that?
We may live in a digital age, but there’s still endless paperwork associated with scheduling surgery. Form generation is somewhat hit or miss with an EHR. If a form-creation/generation feature is available, it is usually a basic, but still a very expensive add-on. Forms generated out of EHRs tend to be produced using off the shelf templates that are limited in design and expensive and time-consuming to modify (if modifying is even an option!). This can be problematic because most hospitals and insurance companies insist all forms follow their in-house templates, which EHRs can’t do out of the box.
These days, anyone who’s not analyzing business data is digging themselves in a hole. There are some fundamental data points about surgeries that are critical to any practice manager trying to improve their practice’s bottom line. The ability to report on the number of canceled surgeries – within any given time frame – is one example of data that EHRs simply cannot report on. Other reports, such as surgery volume or block time utilization at any given facility, are all data points that any manager would drool over, but cannot pull out of their EHR system.
The Bottom Line – Love Your EHR For What It Is
Just like you wouldn’t expect your billing software to serve as an effective PACS, don’t expect your EHR to fill your surgery scheduling needs. Adding a dedicated surgery scheduling platform, such as Surgimate, to complement your technology stack, is the ideal setup for every surgical practice. These days, with APIs popping up faster than vegan eateries, interoperability is seamless and reliable. More than that, the proliferation of APIs reinforce the fact that EHR companies themselves recognize that there are other platforms out there that will complement their functionality. And yes, adding a surgery scheduling platform may be another investment, but it’s one that will definitely pay dividends.