Our CEO, David Howerton, recently sat down with Tom Ballard of Teknovation.biz to chat about our company and EHR adoption at ASCs.
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Have you or a family member ever used an ambulatory surgery center (ASC)? Chances are the answer is “yes.” The 5,000 to 6,000 that exist in the U.S. are a cost-effective and convenient alternative when the procedure does not require a hospital stay.
Yet, during a recent interview with David Howerton, we learned that federal regulations do not yet mandate that ASCs, frequently referred to as outpatient centers, have to implement electronic health records (EHRs), also referred to as EMRs (electronic medical records). The result is the information about the procedure that you completed at the ASC cannot automatically be sent electronically to the referring physician.
I suspect you are like me and many others. We yearn for the time when all of our medical records are available in one electronic file. That’s where Simplify ASC, a company with offices in Nashville and Miami, is playing a big role.
“We’ve all heard about the $32 billion spent on electronic health records,” Howerton, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, says. “The outpatient surgery market was not impacted by this meaningful use requirement that was imposed on hospitals and physicians.”
As a result, he says that 70 to 80 percent of the ASCs are still running on paper, documenting all patient interactions as they have been handled for years. Yet, healthcare system cost drivers are pushing more and more procedures to the ASCs.
“They are doing more complicated procedures now like total joint replacements,” Howerton says.
With surgical procedures accounting for 30 percent of every healthcare claim dollar, bringing more efficiency to the capture and integration of patient data just makes sense.
“We have a proprietary solution,” Howerton says. Named the Simplify ASC EHR, it was developed based on collaborations with hundreds of surgery centers over a 10-year period. “In 2016 we took it out of another company where it was a product line and stood-up an entirely new business around it.”
Recognizing the resistance that frequently comes from physicians who don’t like EHRs, Howerton explains that the Simplify ASC approach provides both an efficient way to digitize the old paper records that ASCs have and also an easy-to-use tool for the surgeons.
More important, the new system is easily connected with any ASC’s billing system which is already digitized.
“Our system is the best offering in the market,” Howerton says, then offers a clear explanation for the claim. It starts with the difference between a physician’s office or hospital emergency room and an ASC.
“All of the widely used EHRs are very good but built for the longitudinal care of the patient,” Howerton says. “A person can present in a physician’s office for a vast array of problems that the doctor must address. Conversely, a surgery center knows why you are there.”
A visit to an ASC is likely a “one-off” occurrence, meaning it could be the only time the patient is treated at the center. Yet, specifics about that episode of care need to be documented in the patient’s EHR.
“We think it is important that ASCs are communicating information they capture back to the physician or hospital,” Howerton says. “It’s all about the patient, and we want to make it as easy as possible for providers to document encounters without disrupting their limited time with the patient.”
More important, while an EHR for ASCs is not yet mandated, he sees a clear movement toward that eventuality as a result of the increased emphasis on alignment of reimbursement for procedures with the resulting quality of care the patient receives.
Simplify ASC is privately-funded.