The ASC industry in 2021: Administrator Meredith Warf's predictions for the next year


Meredith Warf, administrator at Jackson-based Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, shared her predictions for ASCs over the next 12 months.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: How do you see cardiology evolving in the ASC space?
Meredith Warf: If the migration of cardiology ASC patient care resembles anything like the joints and spine sector, buckle your seatbelt. The ASC has the opportunity and ability to bring about not only drastic cost savings, but quality of care, evidenced by data and patient-reported outcomes that propel the continued shift to the ASC with simple reputation and word of mouth. The practices and centers who are best able to adapt to continual change will see the biggest and earliest gains even though the runway is quite long and ready.

Q: How do you predict the role of robotics will shift into the next year?
MW: Computer-assisted navigation for joint replacement quickly became the standard of care. We have seen robotics slowly come onto the scene with barriers such as increased disposable cost required, advanced imaging studies needed, and the sheer monstrosity of the machines in the [operating rooms]. The new robots today are as small as computer-assisted devices and are able to be performed with plain film X-rays as well as lower disposable costs.
We began robotic cases mid-2019 and plan to quickly add two additional robots for our total joint surgeons. With the added surgery and quality data that can be gained through the robotic platform and integrated into our patient-reported outcomes pathway, we believe this invaluable piece of the puzzle will be helpful in planning the best care even before walking into the OR in the future.

Q: What do you think mergers and acquisitions will look like going forward?
MW: Consolidation has been in the ASC space for several years, now making its way into orthopedics. On the heels of a global pandemic, surgery centers are looking for strategy, especially in the higher-risk areas of specialties like orthopedics and cardiology. These risk areas also present areas of potential value — strategic partnerships represent a way to both capitalize on the future value as well as mitigate the risks in the next few years. These partnerships may look several different ways: national surgery center companies may come in as a management company, ASCs may look to partner with the bigger hospital systems for the contract rate "lifts" that are likely short lived and compliance/regulatory help or referral sources, or practices can partner with private equity-backed platforms. Those platforms are equipped with the capital needed to drive insightful, robust data capabilities, benchmarking [and] leverage with payers, while continuing to provide the same quality service to patients that ASCs can offer at such a reduced cost. With value based care here to stay, ASCs are held responsible for more data collection and patient follow-up than ever before. Capital needs to maintain the cutting-edge treatment options like robotics and spine surgery are cumbersome and mitigated with strategic partnerships.

More articles on surgery centers:
ASC industry snapshot: 13 things to know
'Newsweek' ranks America's Best ASCs in 25 states
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