Automation of the Preoperative Process Saves Money and Time

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Dr. Stephen Punzak

By Dr. Stephen Punzak

It is no secret that technology is reshaping the medical industry, streamlining functions, increasing efficiencies and improving the manner in which healthcare is provided.  In some instances, it is even saving lives.  As hospitals look for additional areas to reduce inefficiencies, they are quickly becoming aware of the many benefits associated with automating the preoperative process.

Gathering vital patient information in advance of a procedure is often difficult and time-consuming for medical staff and inconvenient for patients.  Unanswered phone messages, inaccurate or incomplete information, and miscommunication frequently lead to unnecessary delays and even day-of surgery cancellations.  Fortunately, significant technological advances have been made that address many of the roadblocks and unnecessary labor costs that normally occur in the preoperative process.

In particular, one of the most significant advances has been the use of secure internet technology to bring the preoperative process online.  This creates a common, inexpensive, universal platform to connect patients, physicians and medical facilities.

Bringing the process online and enabling patients to securely create and submit their own medical histories at a time and place that is most convenient for them yields more accurate medical histories.  It is easier for patients to verify medical information such as their current medications and correct dosage (which is often difficult to recall during a preop screening visit or an unexpected phone call).  The technology also takes the complex task of submitting a complete medical history and breaks it down into a series of easy to complete sections: allergies, current medications, previous surgeries, etc.  Additionally, patients are unable to move on to the next page until all information is filled in.  With medical histories complete, day-of-surgery “surprises” and errors due to transcription mistakes and handwritten documentation are eliminated.   Furthermore, this technology can reduce unnecessary preop testing by utilizing a highly targeted testing algorithm that can evaluate a patient’s need for testing based on numerous patient and surgical factors.

Perhaps the most important benefit of automating the preoperative process is the ability to deliver higher quality patient care by enabling nurses to focus more on patients and less on administrative tasks.   In fact, using the One Medical Passport solution, hospitals and surgery centers have reclaimed an estimated 25 minutes of nursing time per patient leading to substantial savings.

Of course not all preoperative solutions are created equal.  Therefore, to help you choose the best solution for your organization and ensure high end-user adoption, I have developed a checklist of features to consider:

√   Make it easy. Choose a system that takes the complex task of providing a complete health history and breaks it down into a series of smaller steps.  To ensure end-user adoption, it should be easy enough for even the most basic computer user.

√   Ensure it is secure and compliant. It is essential that the system uses the highest degree of Internet security available.  This is as important to patients using the system as it is to your facility.  Furthermore, the system should facilitate accuracy and uniformity of the preoperative process; two keys to a successful accreditation survey.

√  Require more than an online form. Look for a solution where the patient portal is a key component, but not the total solution.  The solution should facilitate workflows not only between the patient and the facility, but also between the facility and its physicians.  It should also include a document management system to eliminate “lost faxes”, online scheduling, and a web-based secure communication link.

√  Create a trail. Make sure the system has the ability to track who has done what to prepare charts along the way.  Having an electronic trail will significantly decrease lost paperwork while keeping staff updated on changes.

√  Keep it current. Look for a solution that provides patients with continued access for easy updates.  In addition to ensuring information remains current, patients will appreciate the benefits associated with an online personal health record, particularly one which they can print at home.

√  Ensure EHR integration: Ensure the system provides the ability to import the data collected during a pre-op assessment into a third party EHR system;  ideally the system should easily integrate information with any EHR that accepts an inbound message.

√   Make it scalable. Make sure the solution is flexible and easily adaptable as process and physical components change.  As needs changes you will want to adjust the forms incorporated into your software.

√  Remember the meds. Identify systems that offer medication reconciliation.  Having a medication reconciliation component will allow medications added into the software to automatically populate into a format that mirrors the hospital’s approved format.  This will eliminate the need for nurses to copy medications onto specialty forms so they can be reconciled.

Hospital administrators are feeling increased pressure to deliver more in terms of patient care on shrinking budgets.  Automating the preoperative process with proven technologies like One Medical Passport will help you cut costs, increase staff productivity, and may even save lives.  As stricter governmental regulations concerning online medical records come into effect throughout the next five years, automation of the preoperative process will become increasingly more important.

Dr. Stephen Punzak is founder and CEO of Medical Web Technologies (MWT).   MWT’s preoperative solution, One Medical Passport, is used nationwide in a variety of settings that span from fast-paced ASCs to major medical centers and from solo practitioner to large physician group practices.  For more information on Medical Web Technologies and its innovative, Web-based medical information solutions, please visit www.mwtcorp.com.

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