Ambulatory Surgery Center Association CEO William Prentice joined the Becker's Healthcare Podcast to discuss the big trends in the ASC industry and how centers are rebounding from the pandemic's elective surgery bans.
Below is an excerpt from the interview. Click here to download the full episode.
Question: What are three trends you see in the ASC industry?
William Prentice: There are plenty of them, and some of them are in conflict with each other. I will be watching over the next few years to see what wins out. One trend that is a potential concern is healthcare consolidation that we've seen over the last decade which has allowed the big to get bigger, sometimes at the expense of some really strong independent healthcare providers in various markets. That is something we all have to keep an eye on; I believe bigger doesn't necessarily mean better.
The second trend, which is a very recent one but of tremendous concern for everyone in the healthcare world, is the economy and the large numbers of unemployed, which we know will mean a large number of people who will soon lack health insurance. The impact of that on healthcare providers could be really felt very strongly later this year and next year. This is something I'm hopeful the federal government will weigh in to address in some fashion.
The third trend that I think is a positive one is we are seeing a growing awareness by payers, whether that's Medicare or commercial payers and employers, about how ASCs can play a really important role in reducing healthcare costs. We are seeing things like payers introducing policies to steer patients to the lower-cost setting in ways that could be very beneficial to ASCs.
Q: How have ASCs rebounded from shutdowns and limited elective surgery during the beginning of the pandemic? How are cases rebounding?
WP: There has been a very strong rebound. The point of care that was postponed is being seen now, and there are still some limitations on it and resistance by some patients to return to get healthcare while the pandemic goes on. The fact that we have to take additional steps to protect patients and staff in terms of using social distancing and other infection control techniques to make sure we are keeping a safe environment makes procedures take a little bit longer, which makes it hard to fully catch up to where we were pre-pandemic.
But I feel we have turned the corner, and one of the really gratifying things is seeing how safely care can be provided now. We were all a little overly concerned about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in a healthcare facility while the pandemic is going on, but we now know by using all the steps: masking, social distancing, keeping [waiting] family members out of surgery centers and the enhanced cleaning, we are able to keep patients safe and provide care without any additional risk of spreading the virus.