Healthcare Management: Ancillary Departments and ACA
Within any healthcare management system there are several hot topics. However, two stand out among the rest; money and communication. Historically, ancillary departments have been money makers for clinics and hospitals. Utilization of Radiology, Clinical Laboratory, Pulmonary studies, nuclear radiology, cardiology departments, like EKG and other imaging departments have always been a way that more volume can boost revenue. The ACA has reversed that to being paid for sustained good health of patients, not volume.
How do ancillary departments meet the challenges that ACA brings? The primary key to change within these departments is communication. But what tools are needed to enhance the communication and what form does it take? The kinds of communication that typically take place between ancillary physicians and other physicians usually have to do with comparing previous testing to current testing and what that may mean to the patient.
The tools needed to accomplish that are interactive systems that can display previous films, findings, etc. in one place. Lab systems and radiology PACS systems and cardiology systems are typically designed as stand-alone systems. PACS can send images to hospital systems and physicians who can view the hospital system can see the image.
Interfaces between systems are usually designed very specifically at additional cost. What really needs to happen is a platform that allows ease of interoperability that’s also affordable. But changing existing systems for more flexible platforms will be costly.
Ancillary systems must lead the way. One of the most troubling issues to physicians now is the number of times they have to use passwords to log into systems and the clicks and entries they have to make to get where they need to go to see the needed information. When ancillary systems and clinical information systems define ways to shorten that process, more communication will happen to the benefit of the patient. Virtual reading rooms, where docs go to look at and discuss films and results, phone consults with pathologists while both looking at results, and consultants talking to primary care physicians will have to become more the norm if unnecessary testing is reduced and patients enjoy sustained wellness.
Reimbursement dollars in bundled payments will be the reason for hard fought battles between hospitals and physicians. How all the departments interact and find ways to communicate more using new tools will be critical to the future of patients and providers and the success of healthcare management systems.