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ASC Strategy: Key Thoughts on Patient Volume Growth Opportunities

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Here are eight key thoughts and projections on ambulatory surgery center patient volume growth for the coming year.

1. Physician referrals — As hospitals pursue independent physicians for employment, those who remain in private practice are increasingly important to ASCs. Communicate with primary care groups about the ASC physicians, quality and patient satisfaction rates. This helps build the surgeons' practices as well, and non-shareholder physicians may become more interested in the ASC as a result.

2. Narrow networks — Joining narrow networks, including accountable care organizations and many health insurance exchange plans, could drive patient volume since you'll be a "preferred provider"; however, reimbursement is low for patients in the network.

3. Data transparency — Patients are looking for healthcare information online and published data on quality and price will draw additional patients. In time, these prices could attract medical tourism patients from around the country and world, growing into an important aspect of the center's business. However, some centers fear losing leverage in payer negotiations if prices are posted publicly.

4. Self-insured and HSAs Self-insured companies and people with health savings accounts will also keep their eye on pricing, and emerging shared savings programs could be a great opportunity for ASCs to attract new patient volume in the future, says Ambulatory Surgical Centers of America Co-Founder Brent Lambert, MD.

5. Direct-to-patient marketing — ASCs traditionally relied on physician referrals and word-of-mouth to drive patient volume. However there is an emerging opportunity to attract new patients with strategic marketing, says Robin Fowler, MD, chairman and medical director of interventional services at Interventional Management Services. When IMS first started, it had one full-time marketing employee. The company upped that total to four, and Dr. Fowler said patient referrals doubled almost immediately.

6. Branding — Many ambulatory surgery centers are now working to expand their "brand" within the community. Open houses and event sponsorships will make the ASC's brand more recognizable. Some centers also participate in charitable events, whether it's raising money for a certain cause or providing charity care. March is colon cancer awareness month and many GI centers are hosting events to raise awareness for screening.

7. New technology — Some centers are purchasing new equipment with the hope of attracting additional patient volume. If the equipment can bring in a significant patient population the ASC couldn't treat before and is cost effective, the technology may be beneficial. However, if the technology doesn't show significant improvement and treats the same patients already coming to the center, there may not be benefit.

8. Adding services — There are several opportunities to bring in additional patients with value-added services, such as pain management for orthopedic and spine ASCs or women's health for GI centers. The best options are those close to specialties already at the center that won't require much additional resources.

More Articles on Surgery Centers:
10 High Impact Factors for ASC Valuation

How Narrow Networks Impact ASCs: Is Joining the Best Option?

ASC QI Projects: Best Ideas for Biggest Impact

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