Understanding POCUS Workflow Total Cost of Ownership

Assessing if POCUS is cost-effective.

The Benefits of POCUS to Patient Care

Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has improved patient care across healthcare, including in the emergency department and ICU where physicians demand efficiency and portability. According to a study in the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine, “On average, POCUS use eliminated $1,134.31 of additional testing for privately insured patients, $2,826.31 for out-of-network or uninsured patients, and $181.63 for Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services patients.”

That’s a lot of savings. And if physicians are doing POCUS exams already, shouldn’t hospitals and clinics be getting paid for it? If a hospital charged $100 per POCUS exam and did just 100 exams per month, that would be $120,000 per year in reimbursement. That’s more revenue to designate back to improving patient care.

Ultrasound Reimbursement Challenges

Even though POCUS can improve patient care, inefficient clinical workflow limits POCUS adoption in medicine. From poor connectivity that prevents transmission of ultrasound images from the transducer to the workflow solution to poor methods for documentation of POCUS exams, and even “ghost exams” (ultrasound images with missing patient information), there are numerous points of failure that prevent clinical integration of POCUS into hospital systems. This leads to missed billing for the scans performed and suboptimal patient care.

In addition, needing to look up CPT codes for exam documentation is time-consuming work, but it must be done to bill exams correctly.

Calculating POCUS Total Cost of Ownership

When deciding whether to adopt POC ultrasounds at hospitals, administrators must calculate the cost of the device as compared to the amount reimbursable over the device’s lifespan. These calculations help the healthcare facility determine the financial benefit of introducing POCUS into clinical care. Patient care should always be the primary motivator for the introduction of healthcare technology, but it’s essential to recognize that budgetary impacts often play a critical role in purchasing decisions. Improving the existing workflow allows for improved patient care by allowing for simple image interpretation, image transfer, accurate billing, etc.

More money allocated to one place means less money going elsewhere to patient care. For this reason, hospital administrators must make tough calls on medical purchases. But there is a win-win solution that could appease all parties: if hospitals invested in streamlining their existing workflow for POCUS exams (documentation, CPT billing codes, EMR and PACS, etc.), the whole patient experience could benefit.

The Problem of Time Sensitivity in Ultrasound

Currently, many clinicians are using various inefficient, painstaking systems for image transfer and documentation. These range from flash drives to remove data from ultrasound systems, excel spreadsheets to document quality assurance (QA), etc. These “homegrown” systems take an extremely long time to create depending on the complexity, and managing them is even more challenging. They often lack scalability and could even fall outside of HIPAA compliance. A simpler and more efficient user-based workflow solution can reduce work redundancy while ensuring patient privacy.

Current pathways to store, bill, and QA POCUS examinations can result in unbilled and poorly documented examinations. These system failures can result in various downstream effects - non-billed exams, poor collections, and even medical errors.

As a result, too many exams go unfinished and lead to lost revenue. And it impacts a hospital’s operating costs when they can’t bill for work that a doctor does in caring for patients. Worse, when the steps to complete an exam for billing are too cumbersome to do, they just don’t get done and ultrasound is performed under the radar of the hospital administrative departments. This could have potential legal repercussions if a hospital is not able to verify the healthcare performed on patients, especially when those activities contribute to a diagnosis and further action.

An optimal workflow solution allows clinicians access to timely and simplified documentation, seamless data transfer, and accurate billing. These core aspects allow for excellent patient care that can amplify revenue collection.

When the physicians cannot conduct ultrasounds in a timely fashion, they are confronted with two options: put in an order and delay care for a critical patient or use an encounter-based system that may or may not be documented correctly after the patient receives care. Most hospitals do the latter. This means that the images are deleted, not saved, and not billed. When hospitals consider cost-cutting measures to amplify revenue, POCUS could offer a way to achieve vast cost savings and even profitability.

A New Answer to the Imaging Workflow Conundrum

Hospitals have endured poor workflow solutions for so long that, indeed, relief is overdue. Finally, a new solution has arrived: Exo has released Exo Works™, a simple and intuitive workflow solution for POCUS that allows physicians to scan, document, and bill their exams easily. No more ghost exams that get lost and can’t be billed. With a few quick taps, physicians can complete the required documentation and seamlessly send their exams to the EMR and PACS systems. Exo Works is the solution that offers optimal patient care, while also ensuring optimal billing. Request a demo to see it in action.