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Last month, Surgical Information Systems’ Director of ASC Solutions, Daren Smith, had the exciting opportunity to be a guest on the ASC Podcast with John Goehle for his 111th episode to participate in a focus segment on electronic medical records (EMRs). He got the chance to sit down for a conversation with John and explore the evolution of EMRs and their place in an ambulatory surgery center (ASC). Here are some highlights from the interview:

John: EMRs haven’t penetrated the ASC market in the same way they have for physician practices and hospitals. Why do you think that is?

Daren: I think that can be directly attributed to ASCs never having been given a specific directive that requires the use of an EMR like the one that was handed down in the hospital arena. Unfortunately, like we have seen so many times in our industry, surgery centers kind of got left behind in a sense and were excluded from a lot of those rulemaking policies, and in turn never really had that financial assistance to be motivated to adopt an electronic medical record.

John: After many years of working with different EMR vendors, I have seen how they try and sell their products by sending out these meticulously calculated white papers outlining how much money their EMR will save the ASC. I would argue that is not always true, and the return on investment (ROI) is not the reason an ASC should purchase an EMR. What is your take on this?

Daren: In the early days of electronic medical records, I would have agreed with you on this. The initial IT and infrastructure costs alone made those large investments hard to find that return. Vendors used to make grandiose claims when it came to the ROI surgery centers would find with their systems. Things are extremely different in 2020 though. We are now able to provide ASCs with a much better scenario with our Software as a Service (SaaS)-based products. Having an application that you access via a URL in the cloud, that doesn’t require these massive servers, initial infrastructure costs, or as much IT support has helped tremendously increase the return on investment for surgery centers. Also, with our SaaS product, we can now offer a better value stack for our clients with the addition of things like patient and physician engagement tools and built-in inventory modules that they used to have to go out and buy additionally as interfaces. With that no longer being the case, ASCs are seeing dramatic cost reductions. So, to answer your question, I think with the current market, and with the right SaaS product, a surgery center’s return on investment is an important thing to keep in mind when evaluating EMRs.

John: Can you tell us about some of the advantages you see in modern EMRs, outside of any financial aspect for the surgery center?

Daren: Absolutely. One of the key things we focus on is an EMR’s ability to deliver better and more accurate information and provide consistency in documentation. With the use of a modern EMR, whatever information you enter into the system is discrete data, meaning it is both searchable and reportable. This makes reporting much different than it was in the old days, when you used to have to pull 60 charts, go sit in a room and comb through each one individually to find the information you were looking for. And for anyone who works in healthcare, you know that legibility on patient charts has always been an issue. Electronic documentation eliminates the guessing game of a clinician’s handwriting. Another advantage is accessibility. When using paper charts, the only way to get a chart reviewed is to have that paper physically in front of your physician. With the use of modern EMRs, these charts can now be reviewed and signed off on remotely from wherever the physician has access to the internet.

John : You touched on a good point there with accessibility. Can you elaborate a little more on how a well-designed system will provide that accessibility?

Daren: When we talk about a well-designed system providing accessibility for physicians, we mean a product that allows for many ways to access the chart itself, with control over that access. The right product will allow physicians access to their charts from anywhere, even if that means from their smartphone or tablet while they are waiting in line for their morning coffee. It will also allow staff to be alerted of outstanding items that require their attention and to send and receive messages via a secure portal so they do not have to share their personal contact information, which gives physicians an easier feeling when it comes to communicating with the surgery center. This is what we mean when we say “well-designed.”

John: Can you touch on the difference between an EMR that is designed specifically for ambulatory surgery centers versus one intended for a physicians’ office setting and explain why it’s so important ASCs use a system built for their specific use?

Daren: Overall, a clinic system is intended to chart the long-term journey of a patient’s health throughout their lifetime. An EMR built for a surgery center takes a much more episodic approach, in that it’s intended to chart for a specific event, a surgery. When you start to break down what that actually means through the charting process, you can see how different these systems really are. A clinic EMR is not going to have a sophisticated enough inventory system for the surgical process. A clinic EMR will not be able to provide insight on case costing for a surgery center. A majority of clinic EMRs don’t even have the capability to provide state reporting or mandatory logs, which defeats the purpose of purchasing an EMR to go paperless and alleviate all that manual work.

To hear the segment in its entirety, visit the ASC Podcast with John Goehle homepage and listen for free.