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An excerpt from the focus segment of a recent episode of ASC Podcast with John Goehle.

Your Questions Answered Managing Your ASCs Top Revenue Cycle Metrics no lineEarlier this month, Surgical Information Systems’ VP of Product Management, Lindsay Hanrahan, was invited to be a guest on the ASC Podcast with John Goehle for his 165th episode to participate in a focus segment on interoperability. She got the chance to sit down for a conversation with John and explore the benefits of utilizing interoperability in ASC technology.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

John Goehle: Why don’t we start by asking a question. What does interoperability mean in healthcare technology? And why should we in the ASC industry care about it?

Lindsay Hanrahan: Interoperability is really important for surgery centers – and any healthcare provider really – but for surgery centers it seems as if some aspects of this technology have not been adopted as widely, and they really do represent a lot of opportunity for cost saving and maximizing staff time by making sure that your most important resources are able to spend their time doing the things that truly matter the most for your center.

Lindsay: One of the most obvious ways that system interoperability can help is by preventing the redundant entry of data into a software application. In many scenarios, the data already exists somewhere along the way; it’s collected at some other point during the patient journey, and the facilities are getting that data from sources such as a phone call or a fax, or some other human or more “traditional” type of interaction. So, if the data reliably exists somewhere, then integration can really help surgery centers by getting that data into your application without your precious staff time being spent manually typing it in. When you really consider the data that’s done per patient, per case, multiplied by the number of cases that your center is doing, the time savings is very considerable. In addition, you’re also removing the risk of typos or missed data elements along the way. It really does add up and makes a big difference.

John: As you said, if an error occurs and you have to start over again and go back and get that data corrected, that adds an enormous amount of time. I remember a number of years ago, I did a study for one of the surgery centers I was working with, and they found that on average, the registration person had to change the data that they had preoperatively for a patient 50% of the time. That’s an awful lot of misinformation that came in. If we can get that information much more accurately upfront where we have a better chance of improving our operations and making sure we don’t bill something inappropriately.

Lindsay: Exactly. The downstream effect of having the wrong data in any of your applications really does impact the overall revenue cycle and can even result in HIPAA breaches in scenarios where you have an incorrect address or some other data point that’s out of date, causing you to reach out to the wrong patient or reach out to a patient about the wrong type of follow-up. So, there are lots of other reasons, in addition to maximizing staff time, that it’s important to be sure that you have the data correct.

John: The other thing that strikes me when we think about using technology to improve our systems and move away from more paper: isn’t this going to end up being more secure?

Lindsay: Absolutely. I think sometimes when people are used to paper, the change management around that is hard. It’s hard to let go of paper. But moving away from paper is really important from a security standpoint. Integration makes sure that the data is only traveling securely from point A to point B, and it’s predictable – it's exactly the data that you are expecting to get, in the scenarios where you’re expecting to get it. So, it really ensures that getting data from point A to point B is done through a completely secure tunnel and that both parties know exactly what to expect from that communication. It ensures that we’re removing a lot of the risks that providers currently have by having paper lying around the office, having people make phone calls in front of potentially other patients or staff members, and just making sure the data only exists where it really needs to exist and only among the individuals who should be viewing it.

John: So, Lindsay, that kind of brings up a regulatory side to this. Is there a compliance issue also with regard to this topic?

Lindsay: Yes, definitely. Integration can definitely help your facility achieve compliance in areas that are especially emerging. As an example, within the No Surprises Act, it’s very critical that surgery centers have the correct contact information for all their patients, and they need to have that right off the bat since they’re providing the statements in advance of the case taking place.

John: Yeah, otherwise this could end up being a very, very labor-intensive process. It looks like interoperability here is probably one of the ways that No Surprises seems to be an almost impossible task to deal with, which is why we’re talking about this today.

Lindsay: Yes. Making sure you know that your referring providers already have all the contact information needed to share with your surgery center on day one, as soon as they know about the case, is really amazing. It will allow you to move forward with sharing the patient estimate efficiently as soon as you have it. The other thing is that if we anticipate that ASCs are going to be treated as the convenient provider, it will be interesting to see how we can leverage integrations to aggregate the different services that are being provided by other providers adjacent to the surgery center. Whether that is physical therapy, additional lab work, or visits to the provider’s office, it’s a huge amount to compile. CMS has put some time estimates to what they anticipate that being, and of course some of that is also allocated toward generating the patient estimate and communicating that, et cetera. But a large part of it is pulling together all that data and preparing that consolidated statement.

John: It seems to me like interoperability is definitely critical to an ASC, given where we’re heading with ASCs becoming the alternative care setting. For so many cases, we’re seeing cases moving from the hospital to the surgery center in greater quantities, especially after COVID. So, it seems that it’s another push for us to move in this direction.

John: When I think back on everything we’ve talked about here, there’s just so many different areas to apply this – it’s not like interoperability is one big item sitting there.

Lindsay: There are really a huge number of points during the patient journey and case flow for the facility where interoperability comes into play. Once interoperability is in place, your staff should be able to search for an item that they’re going to use on the case and know that it’s retrieving the current price for that item, or the current quantity on hand that you have for a given item. Once put in place, all these things should be natural in the course of your staff’s workflow. It really does add a huge value to your surgery center and can expedite the overall revenue cycle for each of your cases.

Listen to ASC Podcast with John Goehle | Episode 165

This is only a small excerpt from a much larger conversation. To hear the segment in its entirety, visit the ASC Podcast with John Goehle homepage and listen for free.