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ASC Cost Containment: Common Areas for Improvement

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Keeping costs contained is more important now than ever for ambulatory surgery centers, even those that have been profitable in recent years.

Here are the most common areas where ASCs can improve cost containment with quick fixes:

1. Supply chain management. Supplies are one of two major costs for ASCs — the other being staffing costs — and ASCs are always focused on achieving the best prices. However, many consider being able to cover the cost as a "good price" when really it might not be. Benchmark supply costs with others, says National Sales Manager for Ambulatory Surgery Centers at Provista Andy Davis.

"Most implant providers contract locally rather than nationally and the price can vary geographically, even across the street," says Mr. Davis. "Comparing and benchmarking costs against other centers in the same space is very helpful."

2. Efficient scheduling. Compact scheduling, filling block times and avoiding case cancellations will keep staffing costs low and physician satisfaction high. "Efficient scheduling means I can do 30 cases and have everyone gone by 5 p.m. instead of completing 15 cases by 7:30 p.m.," says Rick Sizemore, RN, administrator of Spartanburg (S.C.) Surgery Center. He reported payroll dropping more than $4,000 from one pay period to the next with more efficient scheduling that eliminates overtime hours.

3. Office supplies. Purchasing in bulk and saving money on the "little things" for the office could make a big difference at the end of the year. Dallas Endoscopy Center and IV Anesthesia Services Administrator Susan Cheek, CPA, CASC, was able to save more than $150 a month by switching from bottled water for the staff to a reverse osmosis filtration system.

Vice President, Business Development of ASD Management Charles Dailey suggests saving on freight costs by participating in a freight management program. One center he worked with on the program saved more than $40,000 in one year with the program.

4. Eliminate waste. Examine your processes from when the patient is admitted to discharge — as well as pre- and postsurgical interactions — and figure out where the process slows. Is there any duplication you can eliminate? Is there a way you can make the process run more smoothly? Are there any opportunities for enhanced communication? The staff who work at the center every day are a great resource for ideas about how to improve processes.

Next, make sure everyone is working to their top abilities so you aren't wasting high salaried employees on tasks that lower salaried employees could do. For example, operative nurses paid $30 an hour might be assigned to scanning documents or calling patients for satisfaction surveys. This work could easily be done by staff earning $10 to $15 an hour.

"With salaries making up [a significant portion] of a center's budget, this waste of high-paid staff can add up," Jeff Blankinship, president of Surgical Notes, says. The solution? Ask employees to list each and every task he or she performs. Then closely review these detailed job descriptions to determine which tasks could be shifted to best reflect the skills of each person.

More Articles on Surgery Centers:
8 Key Thoughts for ASCs on Out-of-Network Services

How to Strengthen ASC Administrator/Physician Relationships: Build a Better Experience

5 Key Healthcare Climate Updates for ASC Leaders to Know

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