5 Improvements to Make Good ASCs Great

Riddle Surgical Center staff on great ASCsChris Doyle, administrator, and Kristin Thompson of Riddle Surgical Center in Media, Pa., discuss five improvements that made their good surgery center great.

1. Check on patient wait times. Minimize patient wait times for happier physicians and patients, as well as a more efficient surgery center. Ms. Thompson and members of her team conducts waiting room rounds every day to see how long patients have been waiting and interact with family members to figure out how to make their experience better.

"We are trying to see where patients are waiting for a long time," says Mr. Doyle. "We want to shorten wait times wherever possible. Our long term goal is to add an electronic component to our rounding so we can track patients as they go through the surgical process."

The patient trackers will also allow family members in the waiting room to track patients from the pre-op area to the operating room and then post-op recovery.

2. Track ASC data and discuss issues with all partners.
Ambulatory surgery center administrators have several metrics to track monthly, weekly and daily to ensure the surgery center optimizes its resources. The most important metrics include financial reports, start times, turnover times, OR utilization and patient satisfaction.

"We hold meetings where Kristin prepares data on the quality of our center and part of the presentation includes OR start times in the morning as well as subsequent start times," says Mr. Doyle. "Kristin will discuss with the committee if we notice a drop in on-time starts and we'll figure out what went wrong. Sometimes the physicians aren't starting their cases on time and other times patients aren't arriving at the center early enough."

Ms. Thompson compiles this data manually and investigates issues. She has also discussed the impact of late starts with the surgeons. "The surgeons are also more likely to come on time now that they realize how starting late impacts the center," says Ms. Thompson.

3. Outline patient instructions clearly.
Patients should have appropriate expectations about outpatient surgery and understand what will happen on the day of surgery before arriving at the ASC. Sometimes, verbal reminders about the logistics of an appointment aren't enough and surgery centers may need to distribute written information as well.

"Patients tend to go to the hospital on the hospital campus instead of our building, even though we review it beforehand," says Ms. Thompson. "We are planning to put together a folder for physician offices to hand out with drawn directions for the patients so they know exactly where they are going."

Also alert patients to what they should bring to their appointment and how long they are expected to stay in the recovery area. "We are also working on our phone system so when patients call after hours asking for directions or location information, our Business Office Manager Bernadette Scarduzio will get an email with the message," says Mr. Doyle. "We can communicate the answers to patients quickly and effectively."

4. Set goals with staff members.
Leaders and staff members should have goals for the every-day operations at the center and understand who is accountable for meeting each goal. Ms. Thompson has leadership evaluation manager goals she is accountable for, and her staff members help her along the way.

"Kristin worked with staff members on AIDET, which is a brilliant tool to use in healthcare for improvement," says Mr. Doyle. "This wasn't used well when we started the surgical center but now we find that staff members understand Kristin is responsible for these goals and they want to help her."

Many of the goals are related to efficiency at the center, such as room turnover times or on-time starts. "I have a team leader in the OR who oversees everything, and if she is not hands-on with the case she helps turnover the room," says Ms. Thompson. "I will come out and help whenever we are needed to catch up. Our leadership is hands on, and we make a point to go above and beyond to make patients and their families comfortable."

5. Allow staff members to share in cost-savings.
There are several ways surgery center leaders can recognize staff members for excellence on the job. Some strategies include monetary awards while others require verbal recognition or extra time off.

"The owners of our surgical center permit Kristin and me to provide profit sharing to our staff members," says Mr. Doyle. "We work together on how much each staff members gets, and it's based on performance."

Profit sharing allows staff members to benefit from their cost-saving efforts. "They see what we do makes a difference and it comes back to them," says Ms. Thompson. "Now they are starting to think about how much things cost."

More Articles on Surgery Centers:

Efficient OR Scheduling at ASCs: Q&A With Mary Ellen Rider of Maryville Surgical Center

Expect an Increase in New ASC Development: Q&A With Rob Carrera of Pinnacle III

5 Important Scheduler Qualities to Improve ASC Scheduling

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