5 Best Practices for ASC Improvement From 5 ASC Leaders

2012 should present a variety of challenges for surgery centers, from declining reimbursement to the pending disappearance of out-of-network to difficulty in recruiting physicians. Here five ASC leaders discuss ways to improve your surgery center starting today.

1. Calculate supply costs before adding a new procedure.
According to Brian Brown, regional vice president of operations for Meridian Surgical Partners, surgery centers can get into budgetary trouble if they add procedures with unexpectedly high supply costs.

For example, if a surgery center adds sacral neuromodulation, spine/pain stimulators or laparoscopic gastric banding, those procedures have high supply costs associated with them. If you have only budgeted $300 in supplies per case and suddenly start doing cases that cost $10,000 per case, your budget will suffer.

2. Stick to your strategic vision. Joseph Zasa, co-founder and managing partner with ASD Management, says successful ASC administrators have a clear idea of the center's direction and do not falter on that vision. "They convey the mission of the center in a clear fashion and follow through," he says.

However, the ability to articulate this vision does not mean the administrator should articulate it constantly. "The last thing I want is somebody who's going to sit in their office all day and create pie charts and talk about the direction of the center and then leave the day-to-day operations to the staff," he says. The center's mission and vision should be articulated semi-regularly and then demonstrated through cost-cutting actiosn, recruitment or relationship-building with other facilities.

3. Syndicate new physicians on a regular basis. Rob Murphy, founder and CEO of Murphy Healthcare and founder of ASC Turnaround Group, says improvement of an ASC should center on syndication of new physicians to the center. ASC Turnaround Group uses members of its sales team to recruit new physicians to the ASC. "They are typically on the ground running before a transaction is complete," Mr. Murphy says. "They first identify efficient, quality surgeons in the catchment area. They then build relationships and work closely with the prospective physician partners to sell the concept of joining the ASC."

He says the recruitment of new physicians should never be a "complete" process for an ASC, as physicians will always retire or slow down over time. "New partners are constantly needed to replenish the lost case volume [from departing physicians]," he says. He adds that ASC Turnaround Group focuses on certain specialties when recruiting new physicians, such as orthopedics, ENT, spine and urology. Before recruiting new physicians, ASC leaders agree you should research the profitability of each procedure to determine which physicians will bring your center the most money.

4. Look to take market share from failing centers.
Physician recruitment is on the mind of every smart ASC administrator, and it's only becoming more difficult as markets become saturated with healthcare facilities and physicians increasingly opt for hospital employment. According to Brice Voithofer and Bill Gilbert of AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions, there will be opportunities for those ASCs that are not afraid to work hard and identify opportunities for growth. For example, surgery centers should watch out for competitors in their area where profits are declining and physicians may be dissatisfied.

Some people have said that easy money has been made [in ASCs] and now it's going to get harder, but to those of us who have worked in other industries, harder really looks like the normal course of business," says Mr. Gilbert." It's really about being businesslike in running the surgery center and not just thinking you're going to make money easily."

5. Take advantage of technology.
Surgery centers have lagged behind hospitals somewhat in terms of implementing technology, but the time for ignoring technological developments is past, says Jeff Blankinship, president of Surgical Notes.

He says increased utilization of information technology can improve work flow processes, and using technology for responsibilities such as transcription, scheduling and satisfaction can increase center efficiencies. Otherwise, these responsibilities would have to be allocated to a surgery center staff member, which costs money in yearly staffing costs.

Related Articles on ASC Turnarounds:
10 Steps to a Happier Hospital Joint Venture in 2012
35 New Statistics on ASC Staff Compensation
Getting to 18,000 Cases a Year: 8 Steps to Increase and Accommodate Case Volume

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