8 Qualities of Forward-Thinking ASC Administrators

Sarah Martin on ASC LeadershipSurgery center leaders must have a forward-thinking attitude to stay abreast of healthcare changes and remain viable in this ever-evolving market. Growth has and will continue to be an important part of an ASC's survival in the future. Sarah Martin, of Symbion, discusses eight key qualities for forward-thinking surgery center administrators.

1. Set a tone of innovation. The culture at a surgery center is set by the administrators and physician owners; if they are open to change and encourage innovation, everyone else at the center will follow. This leadership includes the central administrative team, clinical managers, physician leaders, board president and medical director.

"In order to be flexible, these persons need to stay current as to what changes are taking place in the industry to include regulatory changes, payor trends and clinical advances," says Ms. Martin. "The administrator must be a person who embraces growth and innovation personally and in the workplace. This is not a role for someone who says, 'But we've always done it this way."

2. Adapt to changes in local and national markets. Surgery center leaders must be flexible and react quickly to changes on a local and national level to the healthcare landscape. Sometimes, this flexibility might require sacrifices.

"Some examples of ways to stay flexible for growth is for seasoned partners to be willing to change their block schedules to accommodate new center utilizers," says Ms. Martin. "In order to move these utilizers toward partnership, there has to be willingness to dilute the current partners' shares in order to bring in the new members if there are no more shares available to sell."

One of the most important coming changes for surgery centers will be quality reporting. While initially administrators may find quality reporting extra work, it could be beneficial for ASCs in the long run.

"I believe the growth will come from performing new procedures and from a continued push towards transparency in cost and quality outcomes at healthcare facilities," says Ms. Martin. "The ASC industry has always provided quality care with positive outcomes and now the reporting requirements will allow consumers to see how we stack up against providers as compared to other healthcare facilities."

3. Look for new services and procedures. New medical technology will allow more procedures to move into the outpatient setting and surgery center administrators must be prepared for this transition. If they are able to capture more cases from existing surgeons, they could increase patient volume or open a new service line.

"The leadership group must be forward-looking to see what new procedures or service lines would be a good fit for their facility in order to continue to grow the business," says Ms. Martin. "Some areas that have seen growth in recent years include adding spine and total joint programs to a surgery center and more facilities are moving towards cardiology. As technology continues to improve, the number of procedures that can be performed safely in the ASC will continue to grow."

Orthopedic surgery centers could also expand to include complimentary services such as pain management and podiatry. Multispecialty ASCs could look into adding individual procedures such as lithotripsy or gastric band surgery.

4. Stay abreast of developments for outpatient surgery. In addition to new procedures for the surgery center, technology has also made it possible to bring in surgical patients who were excluded in the past for co-morbidities or other issues that are now safely handled in the ASC.

"A safe but forward-thinking medical director or anesthesia group can expand the pool of patients by not excluding those patients with latex allergies, sleep apnea or a history of MRSA," says Ms. Martin. "There was a time when this patient population would be performed in the hospital, however  with proper screening, appropriate training and protocols in place for the staff to include needed medications and equipment on hand, these conditions can be safely handled in an ASC."

5. Network with peers. One of the ways surgery center leaders can stay abreast of the latest industry information is by networking with their peers. They can meet colleagues at meetings such as the annual Ambulatory Surgery Center Conference or ASCA meeting as well as state associations gatherings.

"If there is no state association, then create your own network of regional ASC leaders to meet with or connect with via social media and emails," says Ms. Martin. "Changes take place so quickly, so being a member of ASCA, reading online publications and attending regional and national meetings are a must."

Even missing one change, such as the requirement for billing G codes for Medicare, can be devastating for an ASC. "As an AAAHC surveyor, I see centers that are not aware of changes that directly impact them," says Ms. Martin. "They have to seek this information on their own to stay viable."

6. Keep staff informed about healthcare trends.
Administrators should provide staff members with publications to read that include healthcare articles beyond just clinical information. "All employees are also consumers of healthcare, so educate them on changes that will impact their healthcare," says Ms. Martin. "There may be online resources that are free."

If you are concerned about abuse related to providing Internet access to your employees, you can limit the sites they can view, or simply provide them with a printed version and include it in required reading as part of an in-service day.

7. Encourage others to participate in promotional efforts. Good surgery center leaders are constantly involved in community and political events to promote their centers and ASC-related initiatives; great surgery center leaders motivate their staff and physicians to become involved as well.

"In order to provide growth for their employees, ASC administrators should encourage employees and physicians to participate in grass root efforts to promote their ASCs in the community and with their state legislators," says Ms. Martin. "[They can invite] them to tour their facility to see what ASCs provide and how ASCs are a safe and cost-effective alternative to hospitals."

Physicians and staff members can also participate in letter writing campaigns, such as the recent campaign notifying state leaders of drug shortages. Finally, the ASC can host an open house and invite community members to create awareness about their services.

8. Open up for innovation in key processes. Surgery centers strive for efficiency and cost-effectiveness in addition to good clinical outcomes. Benchmarking individual centers against national and regional averages will help administrators find areas for improvement.

"Benchmarking against national standards, or even benchmarking against yourself, could lead to a process change," says Ms. Martin. "For example, GI centers could track how long it takes for them to withdraw from the colon compared to others nationally. If they are too fast or two slow, they could improve on what they are doing."

Surgery centers that are already hitting the mark can keep an open mind for even further efficiencies.

More Articles for Surgery Centers:

5 Tactics to Negotiate Bundled Payments for Surgery Centers

Will Medicare Ever Reimburse Surgery Centers for Spinal Surgery? Q&A With Dr. Brian Gantwerker

7 Signs the Time is Right for Surgery Center Expansion


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