10 habits of highly-effective ASC healthcare providers

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Healthcare providers have many responsibilities today.

"The goal is to provide care that is accessible, affordable, accountable and acceptable to the patient," says Ray Grundman, senior director of external relations and a surveyor with the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care. "We should think about every patient as an individual, and that shapes our habits to provide a better patient experience. Not everyone has the same anxieties about surgery, and we want to make sure we're providing personalized care."

Mr. Grundman says acceptable care is shaped by these characteristics:

• Achieves good clinical outcomes following evidence-based methodology
• Delivered cost-effectively
• Adds value to the patient-provider relationship

"Think about the goals of the triple aim and how they can apply to your patients today," says Mr. Grundman. "Always search for additional value to add to the patient's experience. This is especially important in postoperative care. We oftentimes overlook the things that can happen when patients leave the facility. Make sure they know who to call when they have questions or problems."

There are several habits that help healthcare providers create successful, patient-focused organizations. "We are seeing the whole idea of patient-centered medical homes being applied outside of primary care practices, including anesthesia homes and surgical homes," Mr. Grundman says. "The ASCs could benefit from the concepts epitomized in PCMHs in terms of developing a relationship with patients, providing continuity and quality of care, and driving patient satisfaction."

Here are 10 habits the most effective healthcare leaders have internalized for success.

1. Benchmark whenever possible. "Benchmarking is a great opportunity to see what others are doing and compare that to your own performance," says Mr. Grundman. "Figure out the best practices and incorporate them into your own practice. That's habit-forming."

2. Don't compromise quality to save costs. "There is a lot of pressure on ASC leaders because we are not getting increases in Medicare reimbursement," says Mr. Grundman. "We have to pass that on to commercial payers, and they are shadowing Medicare, so we have to wring the costs out. The highest costs after supplies are for labor and the temptation is to find substitutes like an aid or a technical nurse instead of a registered nurse. But that's the basis of the quality of care we provide."

3. Recognize your expertise and focus on doing it well. ASCs are coming to realize they can't be everything to everyone; multispecialty centers are catering to many different specialties, but might not do any one of them really well.

"If you have come to the end of the line with single specialties adding any new procedures and the center wants to drive the revenue side by adding a new specialty, there may be a hidden cost on the efficiency side," says Mr. Grundman. "Sometimes it is more cost-effective to do just orthopedics, gastroenterology or ophthalmology, looking to become more of a center of excellence."

4. Screen for patients who aren't good candidates for the outpatient setting. "Our centers will do better by not having patients that are outside the scope of what we are prepared to handle," says Mr. Grundman. "It's the patient who has more communication issues and complex medical issues we have to watch for. We are often not the best facility for that patient."

5. Document a patient visit the same day it occurred to help ensure that all information is accurately recorded. Always ask patients about their allergies, and record the presence of allergies and untoward reactions to drugs in a prominent and consistent location in all clinical records.

6. Develop a relationship with the referral source to provide information about the patient beyond the medical history, including their ability to cope with problems. This can help the surgery center approach the patient better from their first encounter.

7. Take a broader view of your responsibility for the patient after surgery to make sure there is appropriate care at home so the patient doesn't end up in the emergency room for avoidable issues. For example, calling the patient the afternoon or evening after surgery to monitor their recovery and provide early intervention if there are problems.

8. Refer to the patient check-in area as the "reception" rather than the "waiting room" to help communicate that a patient’s time is valuable. Remember to provide patients with any relevant handouts and all available printed information regarding diagnosis, evaluation, treatment or prognosis.

9. Continuously seek new medical education opportunities and learn something every day. Formal education including conferences and webinars can spark interesting ideas to improve patient care, but also make time for discussion with colleagues and other medical professionals to learn from their experiences.

"To me, the habit of being curious, patient-centered and evidence-based with the desire to improve is critically important," Mr. Grundman says.

10. Work with insurance companies to accommodate patients. At the end of the day, patients will remember providers who are advocates for them.

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