Which benchmark can turn my ASC around? A diagnostic test

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If your ASC is struggling, it can sometimes be difficult to understand how to troubleshoot the problem. Problems can have multiple causes, and with the multiple hats ASC staff wear, figuring out the issue may take more time and resources than expected. A little critical thinking, however, can go a long way. Follow this diagnostic test to identify some common areas where an ASC might need to focus extra attention on improvement.

1. Is my ASC booked and/or receiving referrals?
Yes: Continue to question #2.

No: According to Kimberly White, MBA, a senior consultant with St. Louis-based consulting firm Numerof and Associates, insufficient booking is often indicative of a marketing problem. Investigate what competitors are doing in terms of marketing, and compare that with internal marketing efforts.

2. Is my booked ASC profitable?
Yes: Your ASC is well on the way to success.

No: A fully booked, unprofitable ASC is often symptomatic of an internal or operating efficiency issue, according to Ms. White.

3. Does my ASC have a flexible staffing policy/an efficient supply system?
Yes: Continue to question #4.

No: Staffing and supply costs are the two largest costs ASCs manage. Be sure your staffing plan makes sense and has built-in flexibility so only the number of staff required to deal with the daily caseload can be on hand. Supply systems should be designed so inventory is not overstocked and the center will have a crisis of funds, or under stocked so surgeries can't continue without dangerous disruptions.

4. Does my ASC have a benchmarking process that deals with measurable goals?
Yes: Continue to question #5.

No: Incorporating measurable goals into benchmarking is important to having an effective benchmarking system. Simply monitoring processes is not enough. An effective benchmark will have a measurable, quantitative component that can be tracked and analyzed. "While it's great that you did x-thousand knee replacements last year, the real question is: What is the outcome? That's a question ASCs have to be able to answer for each of their critical stakeholders," says Ms. White.

5. Does my ASC have an effective system for collecting benchmarking data?
Yes: Continue to question #6.

No: A vital part of benchmarking is actually making sure the information is collected at a central point. If dealing with clinical records, staff training and prompts are key. If dealing with internal data collection, creating clear and maintainable data collection practices is important. If the data comes from patients themselves, follow-ups and well-timed requests for information are vital.

6. Does my ASC know what it is trying to accomplish?
Yes: Continue to question #7.

No: This is an important question on which it is worth spending some strategic planning time. Having an answer to this question can help with designing benchmarking systems, improving marketing efforts and community visibility, and soliciting patient experience feedback that provides insight on their experience. Knowing how patients talk about your business can impact marketing and visibility efforts. "Social media is playing a bigger and bigger role. If patients have a bad experience, they will tell their physicians and friends, which could negatively affect return visits or referrals to the ASC. Only organizations that measure what their patients are experiencing have a solid basis for improving," says Ms. White.

7. Can my ASC connect safety, cost and quality in a meaningful way?
Yes: Consider conducting an internal review or bringing in outside opinions to search for areas of improvement in your ASC, if it is struggling.

No: In the world of value-based care, this connection is essential. According to Ms. White, while ASCs have traditionally traded on being lower-cost providers, this strategy is no longer quite enough to encourage business. "While price is still a valuable component to the story, it can't be the entire story. Linking cost to outcomes, experience and value will be in ASCs' best interests," she says.

More articles on turnarounds:
7 ASCs making the news this week
A leader's guide to awareness: 5 key questions
7 things for ASC leaders to know for Thursday

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