The Covid-19 pandemic wreaked all kinds of havoc on almost every aspect of our lives. In a period of tremendous uncertainty and ongoing lockdowns and quarantines, many surgical practices were suddenly forced to postpone or cancel surgeries. Patients fearing the prospect of going to the hospital under such difficult circumstances and surgeons grappling with ever-changing regulations and new safety protocols fanned the flames of chaos and confusion.
Now, with over a year of experience in dealing with the pandemic and its repercussions, we spoke to a few clients who shared how Surgimate helped them keep their practices running smoothly during this trying period.
Seamless Shift to Remote Work
While medical facilities largely remained open and medical staff have been permitted to work during the pandemic, many non-medical personnel were shifted to work remotely where possible. Dr. Chima Ohaegbulam, a neurosurgeon in Boston said: “Working with Surgimate PracticeTM, a web-based application, made the sudden transition to working remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic seamless, as no changes to workflow were necessary at all.”
Since Surgimate Practice™ is a cloud-based platform, all registered staff can access the practice’s data from anywhere, at any time. If a surgeon or MA kicks off the scheduling process in the office with the patient, the schedulers can easily and seamlessly continue the process from home. Insurance and billing staff are also able to do their work remotely and access all the data they need. Numerous Surgimate clients shared how their staff continued to operate (remotely) to the usual high quality of service patients have come to expect.
Processes for Canceling And Rescheduling
Beginning in March 2020 (and even beyond), many states in the USA suspended all elective surgeries. Data in the Surgimate platform revealed 88% of surgeries were either canceled or rescheduled during April 2020. Levels have since recovered, but have still not risen back to pre-Covid rates.
The long-term impact of canceled elective surgeries still remains to be seen, but the risks are high for decreased quality of life and worsening medical conditions due to delayed surgeries. Surgimate clients were forced to cancel hundreds, if not thousands, of surgeries, and were faced with the challenge of trying to estimate when to reschedule them.
Erica Hernandez, a project manager at Illinois Bone & Joint Institute (IBJI) was just one of many clients singing Surgimate’s praises in the ability to implement a workflow to track and manage canceled surgeries. At IBJI, schedulers tagged surgeries with the cancellation reason as “Covid” and were then able to run reports on surgeries in the backlog for rescheduling and prioritize them accordingly. As Erica delightedly explained: “With Surgimate Practice™, we could immediately identify how many surgeries needed to be rescheduled. We could not have managed the Covid crisis without Surgimate!”
The “status” and “cancellation” reasons tags within Surgimate Practice helped many practices efficiently manage complicated cancellations and reschedules. Additional tracking features also helped to ensure that all necessary protocols – such as Covid tests – were in place once surgeries were able to be rescheduled.
Shifting Procedures to be Performed at ASCs
When hospitals in many states were forced to shut down all elective surgeries, for some cases, ambulatory surgery centers (ASC) were a saving grace. The Ambulatory Surgery Center Association worked with relevant medical leaders to determine the safest ways that ASCs could continue to operate. This included adding more procedures to the list of those deemed appropriate to be performed at an ASC, including total joint replacements, which were traditionally performed in a hospital setting.
Patients were also requesting practices to schedule their procedures at an ASC because they felt safer being operated on at the ASC rather than in a hospital. “The volume of procedures at our ASC increased by 25% when Covid hit,” said Melody Winter, Practice Administrator at IBJI (Glenview, Morton Grove & Bannockburn divisions).
IBJI used Surgimate Practice to share the surgical schedule with their ASC staff so that it was easy to communicate and plan. Melody Winter-Fajeck added that “The tracking features in Surgimate Practice have ensured we are preventing cancellations and maximizing block time. This is a double win- for our surgeons and ASCs.”
Prioritizing Surgeries for Rescheduling
The majority of canceled surgeries during Covid were actually postponed, not canceled, and needed to be rescheduled. For practices with hundreds or thousands of surgeries to reschedule, this was no easy task – it came down to prioritization. Understanding the new needs of clients, Surgimate developed a brand new feature to help practices easily prioritize and clearly see which surgeries should be rescheduled first.
This new feature – the priority calculator – enables staff to rank each surgery according to chosen parameters including age, procedure type, insurance reimbursement value, original surgery date, etc. Based on rankings of each parameter, the system calculates the overall priority level of the case. Then, reports can be run showing the top priority surgeries.
Kemuel Carey, Chief Operating Officer of Peninsula Orthopaedic Associates in Salisbury, MD shared his gratitude for Surgimate during the peak of Covid-19: “Surgimate Practice has been a real blessing for us during this Covid-19 crisis. It’s allowed us to quickly understand our surgical volume by surgeon and facility and gives us the ability to reboot quickly. I feel confident that we’re ready to go when we get the ‘green light’ for elective surgery. So thank you Surgimate!”
Moving On Up
As if rescheduling hundreds of surgeries wasn’t complicated enough, some rescheduled surgeries were also being canceled at the last minute if patients didn’t get Covid tests in time or tested positive with Covid-19 right before surgery. Rather than add more stress to already overburdened schedulers, Surgimate added yet another new feature – the move-up feature.
Using this feature, schedulers can identify patients who have already completed all pre-surgery requirements including Covid tests and can then use that list to fill a newly-canceled slot. Practices saved significant time that would have otherwise been spent searching out cases to move up or, even worse, those time slots could have simply gone to waste. IGEA Brain, Spine, and Orthopedics were thrilled with this feature. Practice Manager, Kimberly Chetrancolo said, “With all the cancellations and reschedules associated with Covid-19, Surgimate has been a real asset in helping us manage the process.”
Getting Through This Together
No one could have predicted how 2020 would turn out and the jury is still out on 2021. But with a powerful tool like Surgimate Practice on board, you can feel confident in being able to weather any storm – no matter how unexpected. Surgimate is honored to provide our clients with the tools they need to keep their surgical practices up and running, in good times and bad. Let’s hope the worst is behind us!