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Prepared for Success: 5 Characteristics of Progressive ASCs

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In today's changing healthcare environment where patients are taking a more active role in where they seek care, ambulatory surgery center owners and operators are becoming more proactive to maintaining their center's success.

The days where ASCs can depend on just a good clinical reputation and a few strong referral sources are waning in most markets; referring physicians are becoming employed at hospitals, and even specialists are signing employment contracts. Hospitals are marketing heavily to an eager patient population, many of whom aren't even aware the ASC exist. Even patients with health savings accounts and high deductibles who are paying close attention to the cost of care don't know about the benefits of an ASC only minutes away.

Here are five things progressive ASC owners and operators are doing today to prepare for success in the future:

1. Seeking strategic relationships and alignment with other providers — While joint venture surgery centers are an option, even just beginning to have a working relationship with hospitals or large physician groups where there wasn't one before could open up new doors. Hospitals and health systems are beginning to investigate accountable care organizations and ASCs with alignment potential could become a low cost provider within the network, especially if the ACO is physician-led. If aligning with other providers isn't possible, another opportunity lies with insurance companies. Especially where one hospital dominates, insurance companies are willing to partner with ASCs on programs that drive patients to the ASC as a low-cost provider, such as bundled payments or other narrow network opportunities.

2. Going electronic — Most hospitals and many physician groups are now well past the initial implementation phase of electronic medical records and starting to realize the benefits, both in efficiency and data-mining. ASCs without an automated platform to gather and organize patient data are missing out on a huge opportunity to realize efficiency in office processes and gather data quantifying how their center is actually the high quality, low cost provider in town. ASC owners and operators can use this data during payer negotiations, marketing campaigns and quality improvement studies to really take their centers to the next level. In today's high-tech world, patients expect to enter their information online and see their physicians functioning within the digital age.

3. Online marketing — Patients with good insurance plans, and those with high deductibles, are searching for the best place and physician to provide their care online. When they type in "knee surgery" and your city, make sure your ASC's website is the first link they find. But heightening search engine options isn't enough; once they click on the link, make these potential patients feel welcome with a website that includes physician and facility information. A link to contact the ASC and even information about scheduling an appointment with one of your physicians makes it easy for potential patients to connect with you. This tactic also grows the physician's business, further strengthening their relationship with the ASC.

4. Becoming more visible — ASC owners and operators who run an efficient and effective center are targeting potential patients offline as well as on. There are several opportunities for ASCs to become more visible in the community, beginning with the ASC staff. Progressive administrators and physicians educate their staff members about the great work they do and instill a sense of pride within their employees; these staff members in turn will recommend family and friends to the center. Physicians can also take part in the effort by holding seminars at local health clubs, senior living facilities or community improvement events to promote their skills along with the ASC. Some orthopedists are also becoming team physicians for local little-league or high school teams. Finally, the centers can hold an "Open House" with facility tours and physician speakers to promote how the center benefits the community.

5. Finding new ways to save — Whether it's on the materials management, operations or staffing costs, progressive ASC leaders are thinking outside the box to save money in new ways. One Florida surgery center saved several thousand dollars on shipping after joining a freight service; another ASC in Maryland saved big by purchasing supplies on eBay. Several surgery centers have developed creative staffing methods — cross-training, per diem staff utilization and compact scheduling — to eliminate over time and lower overall staffing costs.

More Articles on Surgery Centers:
7 Financial Warning Signs: How to Know if Your ASC is In Trouble

ASCs vs. HOPDs: 4 Unexpected Consequences of Rate Equalization

5 Core Concepts for ASCs to Add New Procedures

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