Lead, don't drive — What it takes to be a strong ASC administrator

In a healthcare landscape trending toward the outpatient setting, Evalyn Cole supports physicians who want independence and patients who seek quality care at low costs.

"I think a strong administrator is one who leads and does not drive," says Ms. Cole, administrator of Spine Surgery Center of Eugene (Ore.) and CEO of KeiperSpine in EVALYN COLE CROPEugene, Ore. "Leading and mentoring and being a person with an open door encourages [the staff] to grow as people and become more team-oriented."

Supported by a skilled administrator, a physician group proves capable of operating an ASC on their own. That's Evalyn Cole's take, at least.

"Physicians need a strong administrator so that they can run the center on their own without the involvement of a corporate partner," says Ms. Cole. "The corporate partner takes away some of their choice."

Ms. Cole has traveled around Oregon helping physician groups design, construct and open their centers. Her passion rests in helping physicians "figure out a way to do this on their own."

"Oregon was a real virgin demographic area for surgery centers," says Ms. Cole, noting her first surgery center in Salem was only the 25th center in the state. In Salem, she negotiated contracts for a group of 22 orthopedic surgeons.

During her first surgery center experience, Ms. Cole realized her healthcare career would benefit from a Master's degree. She wrote her thesis about the inception of an ASC, titling the project, "Designing, Developing, and Deploying An Ambulatory Surgery Center."

"My thesis was done in 2000, when 61 percent of all procedures were done in the outpatient setting," explains Ms. Cole. Today, that number soars to about 75 percent of procedures, and Ms. Cole expects the shift toward the outpatient setting to continue.

After building eight more centers in the state, Ms. Cole took on her current administrator role in Eugene in 2007. As an administrator, she not only helps physicians flourish, but also meets patients' needs. She hopes to impress upon patients the importance of personal health, and believes the industry would benefit from more education on healthier lifestyles.

"I've always been a problem solver and find a way to make what we do understandable and acceptable to patients," says Ms. Cole. "I've always had a passion for saving money and finding creative ways to do things in an economical way."

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