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How ASCs can take advantage of local partnerships

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Being a freestanding ASC is getting harder and harder. Between shrinking reimbursements, narrowing networks and a dwindling pool of available physician recruits, the surgery centers that are surviving — and doing it well — seem to have one thing in common: partnerships.

With business opportunities moving more toward joint ventures with hospitals or three-way joint ventures incorporating ASC management and development companies, it's tough to imagine a successful future for the ASC that eschews partnerships with other local healthcare entities, as it may face being shut out of referral growth and physician recruitment.

Margaret Adams, CASC, administrator of Media, Pa.-based Riddle Surgical Center, says her center has found particular success in its local healthcare market by partnering with the Rothman Orthopedic Group, a tri-state-local group that is also one of the largest orthopedic groups in the United States. The center is also partnered with both Nueterra and Main Line Health in Bryn Mawr, Pa.                                      

The center prides itself on its relationship with the physician group, but the secret, says Ms. Adams, comes after the partnership in the relationships the center maintains with its surgeons. "We work together to get Rothman cases scheduled to our center. When we are down cases, we just tell our surgeons it's a slow month and ask if they can they help us out. And, we're above budget here today," she says.

Riddle Surgical Center also puts in extra effort to ensure its surgeons feel valued. Ms. Adams sends out employee and patient satisfaction surveys on a regular basis. Surgeon surveys happen once each year. "We'll do back flips for the surgeons and patients just to keep everyone happy and exceed expectations," says Ms. Adams.

Exceeding expectations includes correcting reported issues as soon as possible. What Riddle Surgery Center is doing with the data from its satisfaction surveys seems to be working, especially for its surgeons. "This year in January we had 97 percent 'exceeds expectations' from our surgeons," she adds, noting that OR rounds and having information ready are large parts of why surgeons feel the center is also in Nueterra's top quartile for satisfaction this year.

While all ASCs, ideally, strive to please their surgeons, Riddle Surgical Center's success in its local market through prioritizing surgeon satisfaction drives home the market truth: Incentives in the era of healthcare reform are such that surgeons and patients will be harder and harder to come by for the ASC unprepared to strike up truly solid relationships with other local healthcare providers.

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