The term ancillary can be defined in many ways. Some definitions may be:
- Providing necessary support to the primary activities;
- Operation of an organization, institution, industry, or system;
- Providing something additional to a main part or function.
Synonyms of ancillary are: additional, accessory, accompanying and adjuvant.
In healthcare, Ancillary Departments are those that provide supplemental care to support a patient’s overall diagnosis and care. I like to think of Ancillary Departments as the sauce added while cooking that brings all the other flavors together for a wonderful meal. Supplemental care such as Physical Therapy is critical for a patient’s holistic care.
However, often times, Ancillary Departments are either forgotten or not focused on during the development or build phase of an Electronic Health Record (EHR) implementation. One possible reason for this is their end user numbers are usually minimal compared to other groups such as Nursing or Physicians.
To avoid this pitfall, it is first necessary to define your Ancillary Departments. Some examples would be Respiratory Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Dietary, Home Health, etc. I am amazed time and time again by incomplete or inaccurate lists of Ancillary Departments that hospitals and healthcare organizations currently have. Without a complete, comprehensive list, some departments will be missed. It has been my experience at many EHR Go-Lives that new departments are “discovered.” This creates unnecessary chaos during a time that is already chaotic in its nature. Preparation and discovery go a long way toward minimizing and even eliminating this unnecessary chaos.
Too many times organizations think that these Ancillary Departments can use nursing or physician EHR tools and fail to realize some of the special needs and regulations of these departments. Another incorrect assumption that an implementation team may make is that these departments can use Inpatient EHR tools for all of their workflows. However, many ancillary departments do a majority of their work in the Outpatient environment. This may create workflows that have a high volume of patients with varying lengths of time, much different than Inpatient workflows.
Ancillary Departments have different regulatory and reporting requirements than most Non-Ancillary Departments. These requirements dictate the need to either build the system differently or consider interfacing the main EHR system with a system the department is currently using. There may also be billing considerations that may impact a decision to build or interface systems.
As you can see, Ancillary Departments are a crucial part of any EHR implementation and should not be overlooked.
Key #1: Spend time up front during discovery or pre-implementation identifying Ancillary Departments. Once you have them identified, meet with them, and communicate with them often to understand their regulatory, reporting and billing needs. Then, work with them to see how much or how little the new EHR will meet the Ancillary Departments’ needs.
Key #2: When meeting and working with Ancillary Departments, be sure to use an integrated team approach. Most ancillary departments will use many different pieces and multiple applications during their day-to-day activities.
Don’t let your EHR implementation meal slip away; integrate all your flavors with your Ancillary Department secret sauce!