Rising consumerism, outpatient migration and increased labor costs are adding to the challenges the ASC industry continues to face in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three surgery center executives spoke with Becker's about the biggest disrupters facing the ASC industry in their markets.
Note: Responses are lightly edited for style and clarity.
Question: What outside force do you see as the biggest disrupter of the ASC industry?
Andre Blom. CEO, Illinois Bone & Joint Institute (Des Plaines): We believe that the single biggest disrupter in the ASC will be the patient. As pricing and arbitrage becomes more transparent, it will become a more engaging component of patient choice in care plan design when it comes to their health coverage. We are at the beginning of the "shopping" era — where it used to be just patient feedback and more subjective information, the shift in site of service will be driven more by what is available to the patient from a price, outcome and safety standpoint.
COVID-19 absolutely affected patient choice when it comes to surgeries on the elective side of the spectrum. We need to all pay attention to how and why patients are partnering with these decisions. Network options will have to be designed in a manner that encapsulates all the needs of the patient — inclusive of financial awareness.
Mark Mineo. Director, Millard Fillmore Surgery Center (Williamsville, N.Y.): The outside force that has been the biggest disruption has been the federal stimulus and the weekly increase to unemployment benefits.
It is hard to not only hire but retain positions and people when their salaries are close to or are superseded by unemployment, plus the stimulus. This drove up the cost of these positions, which, in the past, tended to be lower-cost labor. Now positions that are licensed and/or certified are making only a few dollars more than [janitorial and sterile processing department] positions that require minimal or no education. As the market continues down this road, it seems that more individuals are jumping around where more money is offered. This causes both instability and, again, more increase in costs.
Zachary Welch. Administrator, Wake Orthopaedics (Raleigh, N.C.): The continued expansion of procedures that will move from inpatient only to the ASC environment will continue to force ASCs to remain innovative and capable of taking on these services. Continued advancements in anesthesia, pain management and postoperative care have positively reinforced the shift of cases that were previously viewed as only possible within the four walls of a hospital.