The importance of relationships in the ASC industry

Technology is remaking healthcare.

Patients today can track their heart rate and sleep patterns with wearable gadgets that once required expensive commercial diagnostic equipment. Smartphones and broadband also mean a doctor’s visit is now just a phone call away, as telehealth initiatives begin to take hold in many markets.

New technology, too, is playing an increasingly significant role in revenue cycle management. By utilizing software appropriately, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) can automate certain tasks, resulting in increased billing efficiency and optimized reimbursements.

Still, despite the undeniable benefits of a more commoditized, technology-based healthcare delivery system, relationships still matter—and nowhere more than in the close-knit ambulatory surgery center (ASC) world. To thrive in today’s ASC market, however, administrators and owners must nurture relationships and build trust with stakeholders. Here’s how and why.

Referring physicians

Physician referrals are the lifeblood of an ASC. According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, primary care physicians are 1.5 times more likely to refer to a specialist based on ease of communication. To keep referrals coming, take initiative and follow up with referring physicians about patient status and future care plans.

It is critical to develop a relationship with referring physicians, as providers may be hesitant to refer patients to a facility if they never hear back about patient outcomes. A recent study from Annals of Family Medicine found 95 percent of primary care physicians rate the quality of communication with a specialist as central to their referral decision.

The same survey also shows that 60 percent of primary care physicians considered specialist location important when referring a patient. Establish relationships with local primary care physicians to leverage a center’s primary care base, grow referrals organically and build surgical volume.


Recruiting top talent is as difficult as ever. And while hiring the right people is key to assembling a cohesive, productive team, equally essential is retaining these A-team employees.

Building relationships with employees is vital to keeping them engaged. But don’t just chat with team members when something goes wrong; praise them for their success and always keep an open dialogue.
Acknowledging an employee’s accomplishments can go a long way in making them feel valued. Healthy workplace relationships lead to more productive employees as well as happier patients.

Administering and reviewing satisfaction surveys underscores a commitment to employee fulfillment. Be sure to check in with employees at a later point to make sure their concerns were addressed.

Offering access to learning opportunities is an additional way to boost engagement. ASCs that provide ongoing learning opportunities often see improved employee confidence and performance.


While physicians drive most referrals, patient referrals also generate ASC visits. According to an Advisory Board survey of self-referrers, a family or friend’s recommendation is one of the most influential factors in choosing a specialist. And in specialties such as OB/GYN, gastroenterology and orthopedic surgery, a recommendation from friends or family is vital.

To earn these referrals, ASC leaders must go the extra mile and offer a superior patient experience. This means making patients feel welcome and understood, emphasizing patient-centered care and requesting feedback. Take all feedback—both good and bad—into consideration, and consistently find ways to optimize the patient experience.

Keeping patients happy also extends to informing them of their financial obligations. Remind patients of their expected contribution with automated phone calls, emails and text messages. Patients should be offered several convenient options for paying deductibles and coinsurance, and administrators should streamline all administrative processes.

Keeping a patient’s family engaged is another way to improve the patient experience. Whenever possible, ASC staff should encourage family members to participate in the patient’s care. This can result in improved communication between the patient and provider, and keeping family members involved encourages them to be part of the healing process.

In today’s increasingly commoditized healthcare delivery system, relationships still carry great weight. It’s the little things that can help a surgery center thrive, and establishing a human connection can make all the difference in the world. As motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said,

“If people like you, they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they will do business with you.”

More articles on surgery centers:

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