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Former ASC administrator share five tips for choosing the right software for your ambulatory surgery center

Investing in ambulatory surgery center (ASC) software can provide numerous benefits to an ASC. It can deliver deep insight into a surgery center's financial, clinical, and/or operational performance. It can automate previously manual processes. It can help boost compliance with federal regulations and accreditation standards. And, depending on the type of software, it can support improvements in areas including staff productivity, benchmarking efforts, cost-cutting initiatives, communication and engagement, and patient, physician, and staff satisfaction.

The decision of whether to add software is an investment made easier today with more software as a service (SaaS)-based options that reduce large upfront expenditures. But there are other important considerations, including the features that come with a solution, delivering staff training, and achieving effective collaboration with the vendor partner, that should be factored in when evaluating and choosing ASC software. With many different ASC software types on the market, it's critical that ASCs perform the appropriate due diligence that will allow them to make an educated decision on their solution.

5 Key Tips for Choosing ASC Software

Following these five tips will help ensure the software you implement meets your ASC's short- and long-term requirements, enabling you to optimize workflows, enhance patient care, and increase overall performance, among other noteworthy benefits.

1. Target ASC-specific software

Surgery centers have unique and different needs than hospitals, practices, and all other healthcare providers. ASC software should be designed to meet those specific requirements, such as surgical supplies and implant management. If a solution is not designed for ASCs, it will likely include features and functionality that ASCs will not use. Surgery centers will end up paying for these unusable features, and working around these components may require extra staff time and effort, reducing productivity and efficiency.

Additionally, software designed for other care settings may not be able to support unique ASC workflows, such as block scheduling and documentation of short cases. All of these factors make it essential for surgery centers to prioritize choosing ASC software and avoiding solutions not specifically designed for the setting.

2. Seek vendors that focus on ASCs

When researching software options, look for companies with a strong history of serving the ASC industry. This history will help ensure that the solution includes the specific features and functionality surgery centers require — and only those components. Such a history should also instill confidence that the company will know how to keep the software up to date so it meets ever-changing ASC requirements. When you're choosing ASC software, you're also choosing an ASC software partner. Make sure that partner understands your business and speaks your language. This will help with ongoing communication and collaboration.

In addition to researching a company's track record, you may also want to look into the company's involvement in and support of the ASC industry. When a company is actively engaged in its industry, which can include attending, speaking at, and exhibiting at national and state meetings, it is more likely to be abreast of the latest trends and developments. This knowledge is essential to keeping software current and better prepared to address future developments.

3. Look for ASC software with market penetration

Software vendors that have a significant number of ASC customers will have more experience supporting like facilities and understanding of your workflows and specialty requirements. For example, delivering efficient workflows that don't slow users down during short ophthalmology cases can be very different than the workflows required for longer orthopedic procedures, like total joint replacements. A software vendor with many ASC customers will more likely have the features required to meet these varied customer needs.

Note: Software vendors should be willing to share data around the number of customers they have for the ASC software you are considering choosing for your center. You want to have confidence that the software vendor is investing in and keeping current with the latest technologies and bringing those advancements into their software solutions.

4. View a software demonstration

Website content, online videos, marketing collateral — they can all tell an impressive story about a solution and help you make a better educated decision when choosing ASC software. But you won't really know what it's like to use and interact with the software until you experience a demo. It's not all that different from buying a car: You should give the software a test drive before making this important decision.

Make sure the demo provides an opportunity for you to see the features of greatest interest and ask questions of the software developer. Go into the demo with an understanding of what you want to see, what you are hoping to learn, and what questions you want answered. A good demo should eliminate almost all doubt about whether a solution is a good fit for your ASC.

Note: Make sure all key stakeholders from the business office to clinical to anesthesia view the demo together and get all their questions answered. This will save you the time of scheduling multiple demos. It can also be helpful for team members to hear the questions asked by colleagues and answers provided by the developer as this information may prompt additional questions.

5. Speak with references

While a demo can help you check most items on the checklist of what you are looking for that can help you with choosing ASC software, the one thing it can't show you is what it's like to use the software over an extended period and work with the company supporting it. That's where references from existing users come in. Ask the developer to provide a few references, preferably from ASCs with similar qualities as yours in areas such as specialties and case volume. Take the time to participate in calls with those references and learn about their experiences, including implementation and go-live, ongoing support, and interoperability. As with the demo, go into these discussions with a list of questions you want answered.

Note: If the opportunity presents itself, you may want to arrange a visit to a center currently using the ASC software under consideration. This will allow you to see the software "in action" and would provide a more personal venue for learning about the user experience.

Explore Your Ambulatory Surgery Center Software Options

For ASCs looking to enhance their performance and streamline their operations with technology, there's great news: A growing number of solutions designed specifically for surgery centers are already available, with new, cutting-edge products frequently hitting the market. It's worthwhile to explore options that can allow your ASC to migrate from paper to electronic documentation or reap the benefits of the deep dive into data provided by analytics. You may be surprised to discover that there are some impressive solutions that can transform the way you run your ASC and care for patients, making the process of choosing ASC software an exciting opportunity for improvement.

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