What it will take for ASCs to thrive in 2021: 8 exec perspectives

From managing staff shortages to overseeing increased caseloads, ASC leaders have many tasks and priorities on their plates. Here, eight ASC leaders share advice to achieve success in 2021. 

Editor's note: Responses were edited lightly for clarity and brevity.

1. Maintain and grow referral sources

Taylor Cera. COO of Orthopaedic Surgery Center (Youngstown, Ohio): We want to be the leader in outpatient surgery in our market. To do that, we must keep pace with the ever-changing healthcare environment around us. It's fast-paced! We have a lot less resources. Since we don't employ physicians, we must maintain and grow our referral sources. We've added multiple service lines and have plans to grow and expand even more. We collaborate with physician groups, train staff, communicate to all stakeholders and integrate the latest state-of-the-art technology. 

2. Promote quality of life and work-life balance

Tracy Helmer, BSN, RN. Administrator of Seven Hills ASC (Las Vegas): We are experiencing a significant staff shortage for nurses in the operating rooms. We are evaluating salary ranges as well as working to train new staff and promote from within the facility. We are also trying to promote our facility's quality of life and work-life balance as a way to encourage hospital-based workers to consider a change in their schedules.

3. Proactive block-time management

Raghu Reddy. Administrator of SurgCenter of Western Maryland (Cumberland): The biggest challenge for us is managing block time efficiently due to the number of surgeons operating here and paying close attention to our expenses. We are currently looking at block utilization, requesting surgeons to reconsider a different block to accommodate high-acuity cases that are most profitable for the center and reducing the overall spending per patient in our community. We also engage the new surgeons and their schedulers to collaborate with them to improve case scheduling.

4. Remain competitive with compensation and benefits, but differentiate with culture

Jed LaPlante. Administrator of Center for Special Surgery (Fargo, N.D.): We are currently in a big growth phase. We added two new surgeons in 2020, and, as you'd expect, their practices are starting to grow significantly as the COVID-19 restrictions loosen up. Attracting great team members is our current focus. That's proven to be a challenge as travel positions are available throughout the community, and there is no lack of nursing or surgical tech opportunities available in a 100-mile radius. Our focus has to be to differentiate ourselves on culture and remain competitive on compensation and benefits.

5. Appropriately adjust staffing 

Mark Spina. Executive Director of Ambulatory Surgery Centers of America (Hanover, Mass.): Our biggest challenge is declining case volumes due to COVID-19. Case volumes bottomed out in January and February and have been slowly increasing since. However, our case volume is still 10 percent to 15 percent below pre-COVID-19 levels. We have to adjust staffing appropriately and make other changes to run as efficiently as possible with lower volumes.

6. Revamp needed policy and procedures

Christina Holloway, RN. Administrator of the Ambulatory Surgery Center of Bala Cynwyd (Pa.): Our center is currently in the process of reconstruction, which inherently creates staffing complications around established hours and requires flexibility in terms of facility needs versus job expectations. Coming out of COVID-19 crisis, many people are appreciative of the additional tasks or roles needed for a company to thrive in times of difficulty. Utilizing this time to reformat needed policy/procedures, as well as review opportunities to improve new hire orientation, has allowed staff at all levels to become a part of a strategic plan that is difficult to devote time and attention to in times of high volume.

7. Branch into critical procedures

Melinda Cain, RN, BSN, CASC. Administrator of Good Samaritan Surgery Center (Mt. Vernon, Ill.): We are located in a rural community of 16,000 with limited surgeons — many of which are hospital employed. Therefore, growth can be difficult. Currently, we are looking into growth within our current specialties and by adding vascular specialty. By doing this, we are branching into more critical procedures requiring additional training, monitoring and equipment.

8. Communicate continuously

Ashlie Cramer, RN. Clinical Administrator of Lakewood Ranch Surgical Suites (Sarasota, Fla.): We are in construction at this time — everyone is aware of the construction material costs, the issues with availability and delivery times. The biggest challenge at this time is managing the timeline, while mitigating the unknowns as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am addressing this issue by continual communication with the construction team, vendors and potential new staff that will be hired upon occupancy. Organization and time management are top priorities.

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