5 key trends for successful ASCs to know from AAAHC CEO Stephen Martin Jr.

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Stephen Martin Jr., Ph.D., the new CEO of the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), discusses the biggest factors impacting surgery centers today and how ASCs are overcoming industry challenges to thrive in the future.

1. Healthcare is moving toward the high quality, low cost settings, and one of the biggest challenges is meeting quality improvement goals with tighter budgets. "Healthcare providers are moving from fee-for-service to value-based contracts, and that's where the work we do at AAAHC is critical," says Dr. Martin. "We're always considering how we can empower our clients to meet their goals as well as the goals of the industry within their natural budget restraints."

AAAHC accreditation surveyors are ASC healthcare experts who work in the industry and can relate to the facilities they're surveying. "Having a peer do a review with the ASC owner allows us to go in and have a conversation," says Dr. Martin. "Yes, I'm seeing the quality metric, but how are you addressing your own practice? Best practice sharing is happening and that's what we are excited to bring to the table moving forward."

2. There are more high deductible health plans today and patients are paying higher out-of-pocket costs. As a result, they're more responsible for researching the cost and quality of providers. "The healthcare space is becoming more transparent with pricing," says Dr. Martin. "ASCs are more competitive than other healthcare providers in this environment. The accreditation process can help ASCs respond to market forces demanding high quality and affordable care. It's ultimately good marketing for the ASC to patients, payers and potential care partners."

AAAHC surveyors are working with owners and providers to identify two or three metrics they can include on their website to tout quality. Some ASCs are also posting their pricing structure online to attract patients and put pressure on others in the community to provide a fair cost structure going forward.

3. Healthcare systems are looking for partners in providing quality and cost-effective care, especially as risk-sharing payment models proliferate. "ASC operations are very attractive for larger health systems in the solutions they offer," says Dr. Martin. "Allowing ASCs to be true partners at the conversation table is important, and having the accreditation designation as part of that conversation with large health systems gives credibility to the ASC's claims."

4. Electronic health records (EHR) are a pricey endeavor but are becoming necessary for all healthcare organizations as data gathering and reporting mechanisms. If used the right way, EHR can add value for the provider as well as the consumer. "Data is helpful for ASC leaders when used in a meaningful way," says Dr. Martin. "AAAHC surveyors provide peer guidance to ASCs and demonstrate how they can put the numbers they regularly track to work, improving quality of care and operational efficiency."

5. The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land now and will have an impact on how organizations develop in the future. "We'll be moving toward a healthcare system focused on value, quality and shared risk," says Dr. Martin. "With those pillars, how do you as a provider fit? How do you play a part in the flurry of mergers and acquisitions? How do you fit in the accountable care arrangements? ASCs have to structure their operations so they can answer these questions confidently."

Surgery center owners and operators are focused on continuous quality improvement, examining benchmarks and metrics crucial to their success. But the same old processes won't propel them into the future.

"If you operate your ASC pre-Affordable Care Act in the current environment, you won't have a successful strategy," says Dr. Martin. "We speak of quality improvement constantly and that should be the mindset of an ASC owner."

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