There’s a fine art to scheduling surgery. Unfortunately, many practices are limiting themselves by not using the most appropriate technology. Instead of investing in software that is specific to scheduling, they opt to use their electronic health record (EHR) system as a multipurpose tool. In this article, we discuss the pluses of EHRs, and highlight the various disadvantages of using an EHR for surgery scheduling.
EHR Benefits and Drawback
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 wouldn’t you use it for surgery scheduling?
Coupled with this, widespread use of EHRs is a new phenomenon. “Meaningful Use” completely flipped the industry. Within the space of a decade, the use of EHRs went from 10% to almost 90% among doctors’ offices in the U.S.
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.
Let’s explore the specific features and tasks that can be executed with an EHR and the ones that need a different software altogether for efficient surgery scheduling.
Tracking Clinical Data, Insurance, and Billing
EHRs are great at storing clinical data but fall short when it comes to surgery data – let alone reporting on it. Tracking what’s still needed in order to process a surgery and ensure the patient is cleared for surgery is not something EHRs can easily do.
Surgical schedulers have to keep track of a long list of details, including:
And that’s before anything complicated comes up. Once you’re dealing with cancellations or rescheduling, forget about it.
A major disadvantage of EHR for patients specifically is the inability to track insurance and reimbursements associated with surgery. Schedulers might be able to write notes inside each record, but there is no way to report on these notes. And viewing all this insurance info in a convenient snapshot? No way.
There’s also no capability to view all upcoming surgeries that require precertification or surgeries ready to be processed for billing. All of which means crucial info might be missed. That’s revenue literally slipping through the cracks.
It’s critical to have an organized tracking system for schedulers to easily see the progress of surgeries and follow up with patients.
Calendars, Mobile Access, and HIPAA Compliance
Many practices resort to using their Practice Management System’s (PMS) calendar to manage their surgical calendar.
The thing is, PM system 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
- Optimizing doctors’ block time
- Filling in last-minute cancellations
All of these examples are daily occurrences at any surgical practice. As a result, many practices with EHRs and PM systems still resort to using “good ol’ paper calendars.” Often one for each surgeon at the practice.
Then there’s providing surgeons with mobile access to their surgical schedule as well as integrating with their personal calendar. PM system calendars usually do not integrate with Outlook, Google, or other third-party calendars.
This lack of integration often leads to double or triple inputting information or having crucial details going missing.
Let’s not even mention exposing PHI. Not only is this serious, but it could also cause avoidable scheduling snafus,
Surgimate’s app allows surgeons, schedulers, and medical personnel to access one synchronized calendar. They can view patients’ medical records and surgical details on a completely HIPAA compliant and efficient platform.
Hours of Form Generation
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’s usually a basic yet expensive EHR add-on. Forms generated out of EHRs tend to be produced using off-the-shelf templates that are limited in design, 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.
Digital form generators eliminate the risk of error, save time, and helps boost overall efficiency in practices.
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.
Many would love to have data to improve their practice, but few if any EHR systems can provide:
- The number of canceled surgeries within any given time frame
- Surgery volume
- Block time utilization at any given facility
Surgimate’s reporting feature gives practices valuable insights into their performance levels and identifies recurring problems in the system.
Choose Wisely for Efficient Surgery Scheduling Technology
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.
With APIs popping up faster than vegan eateries, interoperability surgery coordination apps are seamless and reliable. More than that, the proliferation of APIs reinforce the fact that EHR companies themselves recognize the disadvantages of EHR. They just can’t perform all tasks needed to run a surgical practice.
As a result, they’re welcoming other platforms out there that will complement their functionality. And yes, adding a surgery scheduling tool may be an investment, but it’s one that will definitely pay dividends.