Same-Day Surgery Manager

Technology to make your work life easier

By Stephen W. Earnhart, MS
Earnhart & Associates
Houston, TX

Part of my job is to review technology: hardware, software, web applications, cell phone apps, and the like. What a sweet job, right?

Much of my research is with entrepreneurs, CEOs, and geeks. (Oh, my!) I don't know which of this group I enjoy more. I do admit that I bluff my way through many of the geek conversations, and I suspect they know that I know nothing, but it still is fascinating to hear what technology already is here for all of us.

Regardless of where you work, hospital or surgery center, both are embracing the technology. Essentially, as I see it, much of what is here and ahead of us is cloud-based, from patient medical passports, to billing, to patient registration, to electronic medical records, to pre-op and post-op interaction with our patients.

Imagine an interactive web based program that does the nursing assessment (with real time RNs) and anesthesia consults, orders preop tests based upon a menu-driven decision tree, and prints detailed instructions and even directions to your facility from the patient's home. Imagine the patient registration process, including the signing of all necessary paperwork from the patient's home with document-signing software embedded into your forms. The registration processing time has just been reduced by 80% and with a much higher patient understanding because they can actually take the time to read what they are signing. In comparison, they often feel pressured to sign documents by the front desk staff just trying to push the patient through the system.

In addition, your entire medical history, lab tests, consultations, operations, complications, meds, reactions to meds, X-rays, and MRI/CT scans and interpretations are readily available to your surgical provider, while still conforming to and protecting your privacy. How cool.

Furthermore, all your postoperative phone calls are made to your patients, which frees up valuable staffing time. Slick, isn't it? Don't give me that "we are losing contact with our patients" argument. You are not. You are enhancing the patients experience by eliminating duplication, late patients, lost patients, and canceled cases, and you are freeing up staff to focus on the patient's surgery.

What about controlling your cost? You will be updating your inventory at the end of each day. You will be making sure you are being charged exactly what you negotiated with your vendors. What if your vendors had access to your inventory online and automatically replenished your PAR stock? What if you never had to see a vendor again? Well, probably not a good idea. Who would buy lunch and bring doughnuts? (No hate mail from vendors please! We know we cannot survive without your input and advice.)

Let's not forget the surgeon's staff. We want the surgeons to like us, but we really want to remove barriers for the surgeon's staff when they are booking cases. Again, imagine the surgeon's block schedule available to his/her staff so that they can post the case without a single phone call. At the same time, they can integrate the patient's demographic information into your facility software, which reduces duplication of efforts and errors. Imagine if there is an error in the posting, and it is the surgeon's office fault and not ours. How satisfying is that?

Now let's look at what I look at: cash flow!

What if everything you need to know about your department or facility billing, return of investment, billed patients, rejected claims, days in receivable, insurance reimbursement tied to your contracts, patient deductible information, outstanding invoices, late payments, and dozens of other financial information was on a single page of your computer. Now imagine that being cloud-based. It could be accessible by as many people as you grant access to, and they could watch the indicators change in real time. Sweet!

Guess what? All of it and more is here right now and surprisingly inexpensive. We have some sharp people in this great country. I have had the great privilege to meet all these innovative companies and developers, and I am still in awe of what is here and cannot wait to see what is ahead! [Editor's note: Earnhart & Associates is a consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery development and management. Earnhart & Associates' address is 238 S. Egret Bay Blvd., Suite 285, Houston, TX 77573-2682. Phone: (512) 297.7575. Fax: (512) 233.2979. E-mail: Web:]