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The Most Important Qualities of a Successful ASC Administrator: 3 Expert Perspectives

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Being a good administrator is a challenging prospect; ambulatory surgery centers are lean operations and required detailed oversight, which is no small task. The following are thoughts on what it takes to go above and beyond as an administrator for an ambulatory surgery center from three industry experts:

Q: What are the most important qualities of a successful ASC administrator?

Joan G. Dentler, MBA, President and CEO of Avanza Healthcare Strategies: I have had the honor to work with many great ASC administrators in my career, and I have assisted many ASC owners and board members make the decision about which candidate to hire to run their ASC.

Besides a broad knowledge of the nuts and bolts of ASC operations, the traits I find valuable in an administrator include: current and expanding knowledge of the healthcare industry beyond the ASC world, intellectual curiosity and an internal drive to learn, engagement at all levels of the organization, willingness to take risks and understanding that failures are learning opportunities, responsiveness to input and ideas from both internal and external sources, self-confidence and high expectations, though tempered with fairness and compassion.

The precise complement of critical skills an ASC needs in its administrator are often different, depending on factors such as whether or not there is an outside manager involved, if the ASC has a hospital affiliation and the size and scope of the services the ASC provides. In addition, the growth of support services available to support ASC has, in some cases, taken many of the "hands on" tasks off of the administrator's desk, allowing them to become more of a strategic planner and visionary for the organization. These changes in the industry mean that ASC boards should re-evaluate the role and responsibilities of their administrator, in light of what types of support services they have also engaged for their center. As an ASC evolves so does the type of leadership it requires.

Between the general growth and maturity of the ASC industry and the restructuring of many development/management companies, the pool of qualified administrators has grown exponentially in the last 10 to 15 years. This is particularly true in non-CON states and in urban areas.

Marcy Sasso, CASC, Director of Compliance and Operations of Sasso Consulting: A good administrator needs patience, favorable communication skills and positive body language in order to attain desired outcomes from staff and physicians. There is a great saying, "say what you mean, mean what you say; but don't say it mean."

He or she must be able to understand and answer questions, often without delay, assist others with multi-tasking and most of all keep "sentiments" out of the circumstances. Never take sides; instead, let the facts and particulars of a situation lead you to a solution.

Motivating staff is fundamental, while at the same time keeping an eye on the center's goals. If you can't afford to cater luncheons, hold a pot-luck lunch; or, give an hour of PTO time if someone really goes above and beyond to assist the center. Balance, encouragement and treating others with respect goes a long way with being a good leader and ensuring an efficient and effective work environment, most of the time.

Jon Vick, Founder and President of ASCs Inc.: A good administrator has both great clinical skills and a systems perspective. They must know what's required for a successful clinical environment for the surgery center, and they must have the business expertise to help on the business side of running a successful ASC. The administrator can be most valuable in four key areas:

The first is contracting — a great administrator will know how to negotiate contracts. This is the main area where an administrator can add to the bottom line for cases their center is already doing.

The second area is identifying and helping to recruit new partners to the center. Administrators can meet with identified partners, show them how the center is doing and give the physician a good reason to consider using the center and becoming a partner.

The third area is supply management. If the center does not currently have a purchasing network, they should consider such a relationship, as it can save tons of money on supplies and disposables.

In general, a great administrator will know what adds to the value of the center. No center is static, and no center was initially established to last forever with the same owners. The administrator should know how shares are bought and sold and how the center is valued, so the administrator can direct efforts and activity toward things that maximize value on one hand, and facilitate transfer of ownership to new doctors from old ones who want to retire on the other.

More Articles on Turnarounds:
Capitalize on Technology: 3 Quick Tips for ASC EHR Selection
Building a Successful ASC Total Joints Program: Pathways to Success

5 Components of Emotional Intelligence for Leadership

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