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Carolina CenterBrenda Page, RN, MBA, is director and Sarah Moffat is business office manager for Carolina Center for Specialty Surgery in Charlotte, N.C. They have been an AmkaiSolutions partner since 2010.

Q: Why did Carolina Center for Specialty Surgery partner with AmkaiSolutions?

Brenda Page: We conducted research into AmkaiSolutions and its competitors, and visited an AmkaiSolutions ophthalmology center partner. Overall, we thought AmkaiSolutions provided the best system. We went live with the AmkaiOffice administrative system in early 2010, and brought the AmkaiCharts EMR on in mid-2010.

Everyone here would say we've always had a good relationship with AmkaiSolutions. If we have any questions or need help, they're very pleasant on the phone and very quick to respond. The systems are reliable. Nothing seems to go down.

Q: As an AmkaiSolutions partner for closing in on three years, your systems have gone through a number of upgrades. What is that experience like?

Sarah Moffat: I came into this role with some IT experience and have been a part of other system upgrades. I can say upgrades with AmkaiSolutions are pretty streamlined. At the same time I am handling the upgrades to our workstations and making sure each computer has the most up-to-date software version, there is somebody on the other end at AmkaiSolutions who is working with me at the same time, in real time. If I notice an issue, I get a response or any feedback from the support person instantly. We can schedule upgrades at night and they are always ready to help me. They could throw me off in the middle of the woods for upgrades, but they don't. I can literally pick up the phone, call and within a ring or two, I would hear from them.

I am very pleased with the upgrade process. I can choose the time that works best for my schedule, and AmkaiSolutions will still be there to help me if I need assistance.

Q: What are some of the benefits of using AmkaiCharts and AmkaiOffice, and being an AmkaiSolutions partner?

BP: I know my nurses feel it's a very user-friendly system. We recently hired two new nurses, and our PACU manager says it's been very easy for them to catch on.

Using an EMR means there's a lot less need to scan now. We used to have to scan the whole chart. Now we don't have to, so that's certainly saved time and money from our front desk. As I mentioned earlier, the systems are also really reliable. They don't go down.

Our group has highly recommended it. We have different people contacting us for our opinion on it. It's crisp looking. If you look at the schedule and other components, it just looks nice. It's impressive when you're showing other people.

Around the time we switched to AmkaiSolutions, we needed a neurosurgical assessment for PACU, and they developed it. I think that is an indication of their willingness to accommodate the needs of their partners.

SM: While I wasn't a part of the "birth" of AmkaiSolutions at our facility, I can say that the way it's communicated to me that one of the things about AmkaiOffice that really attracted us to the product was the cost management module. She said it was either the only product or one of the only products to have cost management out of the systems we chose for consideration. That definitely helped set it above some of the other products. It's extremely valuable to have the ability to measure all of the different cost variables and revenue to help understand what cases or procedures are helpful versus what we're just throwing money away at. It's really nice to have that snapshot.

It's helpful for benchmarking as well, such as the ability to compare why one case for one physician costs this amount versus the exact same case for another physician, and the ability to drill down on supply costs or salary costs of an employee.

I'm very pleased with the ability to create your own reports. If I find that I can't locate a certain cookie-cutter report, I have the ability to do a custom report where I define the variables and how I want to measure those variables. Once you get your feet wet and understand how to build a report, it's easy and very helpful.

I once created a report, and when I sent an email to AmkaiSolutions support to ask if they thought I was running the custom report correctly to provide me with the best information, they said there was already cookie-cutter option available. What's nice is that if there is a report available and you don't know it exists — and don't think to ask — you still have the ability to create it yourself.

Also, the AmkaiWiki (an online source of information for all products and services from AmkaiSolutions) is a great knowledge source. It is nice that if I forgot how to add a user, for example, I can go to the AmkaiWiki and have the reminder of how to add a user.

BP: I've definitely used the Wiki for help in a number of areas including scheduling and rescheduling.

Q: For ASCs that lack an EMR, would you advise them to consider making the switch to an electronic system?

SM: By going electronic, it standardizes patient care in the way that all clinical staff has access to the same information. And it's faster. There isn't the need for someone to have to run across the facility to grab somebody's chart. If you can find a computer nearby, then it's just as easy to tap into the EMR system. I think it streamlines things a lot.

BP: What's nice is you don't need all of those paper files anymore. We had these files full of paper charts and we no longer need them.

And frankly, you're not going to have much choice for much longer. The government is dictating the transition of providers to electronic records; sooner or later, they're going to mandate it for ASCs as well.