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A patient tracking system can help improve communications and the availability of up-to-date patient information for staff and families. Learn about eight ways patient tracking can help an ASC.

Ambulatory surgery center (ASC) leaders interested in improving facility efficiency by enhancing multiple facets of their ASC's management should consider electronic patient tracking capabilities. Such functionality is proven to help improve communications and the availability of current patient information for staff and families. 

If you're on the fence about whether to add ASC patient tracking capabilities, such as the technology included in SIS Complete, consider these eight ways that patient tracking will help your surgery center. 

ASC PreOp/PACU Tracking Board 

The PreOp and PACU tracking board is typically placed within a surgery center at the nursing station near the PreOp and PACU bays. It shows which patients are in PreOp and PACU and which patients are in the queue.

1. Critical patient information in one place

Surgery centers that add ASC patient tracking technology to their PreOp and PACU areas benefit from gaining a single location where clinical staff can find the essential patient information they need to help deliver a safe, high-quality surgical event. This information includes patient demographics, which bay the patient is in, what the procedure is, who is performing the procedure, what type of anesthesia will be used, and any allergies.  

Some systems, including SIS Complete, also provide information and completion details on major milestones such as the following: 

  • Consents signed 

  • Patient in PreOp

  • Patient ready for transfer to the OR 

  • Patient in OR 

  • Surgical timeout complete 

  • Incision start 

  • Incision end 

  • Patient in PACU 

  • Discharge instructions complete 

2. Patient information automatically updates on the boards

For optimal workflow, ASC electronic patient tracking displays should be updated as a byproduct of clinical documentation staff is already completing. This eliminates double documenting and helps ensure the latest patient information is available on the electronic patient tracking boards. 

Automated updates also eliminate many other time-consuming, manual processes, such as removing patients from the display upon their discharge, reordering patients as they progress through the surgical process, and grouping patients together by category (e.g., specialty, surgeon). 

3. Avoids dry-erase board shortcomings

Dry-erase boards have long been a common means for ASC staff to track patient movement through a center. Unfortunately, the use of dry-erase boards can prove challenging and introduce risks for several reasons. These include the following: 

  • Additions, changes, and updates must be manually written on the board. In a busy ASC, particularly those with high volume and fast turnover, trying to keep up with many changes can prove difficult and stressful.

  • Poor and rushed handwriting can create confusion and/or misunderstanding about important patient details, leading to reduced efficiency and safety risks.

  • Patient information must be documented multiple times. The information noted on the dry-erase board must still be entered into an electronic solution or paper record. This redundancy decreases staff efficiency and increases the potential for data entry errors.

  • Higher case volume can present challenges. While dry-erase boards are available in different sizes, trying to change between sizes when volume increases is impractical. That means surgery centers must either choose a dry-erase board size that can accommodate their projected highest-volume day (which can prove quite large) or try to squeeze more information onto a smaller board. 

4. Effectively accommodates high ASC patient volume

As the number of admitted patients increases, ASC patient tracking technology doesn't try to squeeze everything onto one screen. Rather, it will flash through the multiple pages required to support the volume, displaying information for a reasonable amount of time and keeping text at a consistent, easily readable size. 

ASC Operating Room Tracking Board 

The OR tracking board is typically placed in a common area near the outside of a surgery center's operating rooms. Some of the benefits of its use are similar to those associated with the PreOp and PACU board, as described above. 

5. Convenience for ASC clinical staff

The OR board provides staff with a convenient, easy-to-read means to check the status of the ASC's operating rooms throughout the day. This reduces time spent asking questions of teammates and the need to track down staff to ensure they are in the right place at the right time.  

For example, if one OR is running late, the person running the patient tracking board for the day may decide to move a case to an open operating room. Without the electronic board, which updates as soon as a case is moved on the schedule, this individual would need to make calls, send text messages, or physically track down staff to ensure the moved case starts on time. 

6. Prompting of staff

Some operating room patient tracking boards, like those in SIS Complete, include functionality that will highlight when a case is running late. This pushes staff to take corrective action to start the case and helps keep a surgery center on its surgical schedule. A prominent red line around a case on the board, for example, provides an at-a-glance visual queue that a particular OR needs immediate attention. 

Waiting Room Tracking Board 

The patient tracking board for an ASC's waiting room is designed to help keep family and friends apprised of the patient's progress throughout the surgical event.A HIPAA-compliant display shows a unique identifier for the patient along with a progress bar that indicates the patient's movement through the surgical event. 

7. Peace of mind for visitors

Family members and friends can easily track their loved one's movement, providing solace and reducing uncertainty during what can be a very stressful experience. When patients know that family and friends are being kept informed about their progress, this can increase their satisfaction and reduce stress as well. 

8. Enhanced ASC staff productivity and satisfaction

When visitors have a means of tracking patients' progress, they do not need to ask front desk staff for status updates. Staff spend less time speaking with visitors and making disruptive calls or visits to the nursing station and operating rooms for updates. As a result, staff interruptions are reduced, and satisfaction increases across the facility. 

In addition, waiting room patient tracking boards that can be updated automatically when the nurse documents in the EHR that the patient has moved to the next phase of care require no manual intervention or additional steps to update patient status in the waiting room, thereby improving efficiency and productivity. 

ASC Patient Tracking Technology is a Difference Maker 

ASC patient tracking technology is yet another example of how innovation can dramatically improve processes that seem to be working well enough on the surface but, when analyzed further, are inefficient in ways that can decrease facility and staff performance and increase risks. When evaluating electronic patient tracking solutions, here are a few key considerations: 

  • Look for a system designed for ambulatory surgery centers rather than hospitals or clinics so you can better ensure features and functions are applicable to your setting.

  • If you are using or considering an EHR, check to see if information documented in the EHR is available for digital display in various patient tracker formats. 

  • Talk to current users of the systems you are considering to gain a better understanding of how the technology has improved care team communications and ASC efficiency. 

  • Demo the systems to see them in action

By investing in the right ASC patient tracking system, you will improve the experience of people coming to and working in your surgery center.