4 Tips for Saving Money This ASC Budget Season

Melissa WeikThis article is written by Melissa Weik, Administrator at North Pointe Surgery Center.

For many ambulatory surgery center (ASC) owners and managers, budget season is in full swing; it is time for reviewing what works and what didn't, where to spend more and where to cut. While the industry is under pressure to do more with less, being asked to make significant cuts without impacting quality of care or patient safety can be a challenge.

In addition to the basics such as sending people home when they don't have cases, there are many other ways ASCs can save money without negatively impacting facility operations. To help ASC owners and managers this budget season, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the ways we at North Pointe Surgery Center have successfully reduced costs, and in many instances, streamlined processes.

As you plan for 2014, consider the following four money saving tips:

1.    Review customized surgical packs. It is easy to become complacent using the same surgical pack year after year. However, if your practice is like ours, it has likely changed over the years, meaning your surgical pack needs have changed as well.

By placing bins outside of our surgical room and having staff put unused items in the bins after each procedure, we were able to quickly identify which items should be removed from our customized packs. Items needed for a particular surgeon are now ordered as one-offs and stocked for use as-needed. It is recommended you do this twice a year to stay on track. To further reduce costs, we require vendors to rebid pack prices every two years. Changing from one provider to another enabled us to save a little over $40,000 in just one year.

2.    Cut the cord on grounding pads. Grounding pads are a staple item at surgery centers. These disposable pads come in a variety of types — we were using the ones with the cords attached. Simply switching to cordless pads with reusable cords enable us to save roughly $3 per case, which translates to a little over $10,000 a year. This is just the per item cost; additional savings were achieved through the elimination of disposal-related costs.

3.    Reconsider reprocessing. If you aren't using a reprocessing service for single-use devices, you are missing out on substantial cost savings. Reprocessing single-use devices can save medical facilities easily 50 percent of what they would normally pay for a new item. Depending on the device, some items can be reprocessed anywhere from three to five times which translates to significant cost savings throughout the course of a year. While single specialty ASCs won't be able to reprocess as many devices as multispecialty facilities, substantial savings can still be achieved. As a single specialty facility, we were able to save just over $100,000 last year; this year we are on track to save $125,000.

When selecting a reprocessing company, it is important to know what they are sending back to your facility. Are they sending you back the items you sent them or are they selecting items from a pool? To make sure the company you are dealing with is reputable, it is best to go through a distribution company rather than the reprocessing company itself.  

4.    Look at technology. Advancements in technology are enabling ASC owners and staff to streamline traditionally antiquated, error-prone, time-consuming processes such as pre-admissions. Previously, we relied on a staff of pre-anesthesia nurses to phone patients in advance of a procedure. Significant time was spent chasing patients who were unavailable or unprepared at the time of the call. By bringing our pre-admission process online with One Medical Passport, we save more than $250,000 a year in staff-related costs, postage and printing. In fact, the annual cost of mailing admission kits was more than the One Medical Passport solution. Additional cost savings are achieved through the elimination of delays and cancellations as histories are much more complete. The process is much more streamlined for both patients and staff and the feedback has been very positive.

With careful consideration, significant cost savings can be achieved without affecting patient safety or the surgical outcome. Starting with this list, you can jumpstart your savings. Hopefully it has also inspired you to think of other ways to save as well.

More Articles on Surgery Centers:
6 Golden Rules of Surgery Center Staff Engagement

5 Tactics to Trim Surgery Center Staffing Costs

22 Observations on ASCs for 2014

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