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Digital Issues

Archive >  August, 2014 XV, No. 8

The Bottom-Line Benefits of Using EMRs

Improved documentation can dramatically increase case volume and surgical revenues.

Stacey Reagan, RN working with EMRs SATISFIED STAFF Stacey Reagan, RN, clinical director at PCET Surgery Center in Knoxville, Tenn., benefits from working with EMRs.

Besides improving the accuracy and thoroughness of your op reports and claim forms, electronic medical records can have a huge impact on the efficiency of your surgical facility, driving more volume and revenue to your ORs. Just ask Robert Foglia, MD, the division chief of pediatric surgery and the surgeon-in-chief at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. In 2006, Dr. Foglia spearheaded EMR implementation at UTSMC. At the time, 14% of cases were cancelled on the day of surgery, just 12% of first cases started on time and surgeons used only 47% of allocated block times. “Obviously, not good numbers,” he says.

Four years later, when Dr. Foglia measured the impact of using the EMR system on operational, financial and quality performance measures, the turnaround was staggering: Case volume jumped by 35% and surgical revenue increased by 53%.

The numbers, while impressive, were only part of the story. “You can put processes in place, but you also have to change the culture,” says Dr. Foglia. “The only people who like change are babies with wet diapers.”

Patience pays off
Surgical facilities typically lose efficiency during the initial months of EMR implementation, says Dr. Foglia. First case on-time starts at UTSMC dropped from 30% to 22% after the EMR was launched, but eventually rebounded and steadily increased to the current mark of 80%.

Brace yourself for inevitable pushback from staff and surgeons who’ll pine for pen and paper. This is such a nuisance, they’ll say when the electronic system goes live. But wait for the aha moment to hit months later, says Dr. Foglia. That’s when the useful data starts pouring in, the numbers you couldn’t get before. For example, UTSMC can now track the room turnovers of specific OR teams with the aim of limiting the unproductive time that Dr. Foglia says eats up an hour or 2 of a surgical day.

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