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5 Ways to Boost Ambulatory Surgery Center Profits

Five experts give their tips for boosting ambulatory surgery center profits through better business dealings and more productive employees.

1. Streamline the admissions process. Surgeons, staff members and senior leadership must all be on board to streamline the admissions process and move patients through as quickly as possible. This means if there is a redundant form or test that doesn't improve the quality of a patient care, consider eliminating that step and moving on to the next.

"For example, sometimes surgery centers have extra lab tests or an EKG that doesn't really impact the quality of patient care," said Mary Sturm, senior vice president of clinical operations at Surgical Management Professionals. "The decision to do these tests is driven by surgeon or anesthesiology preference. If those diagnostics are really going to be utilized to make decisions on the patient's plan of care, then they are important. However, sometimes they get ordered because they have always done those things and when people stop to think about it they don't use those results in the patient's care plan."

2. Improve staffing. ASCs should recruit an experienced and talented administrator and strong clinical leader to empower staff and ensure appropriate coverage for case volume. A best practice in this area also involves providing incentives for productivity and patient satisfaction to all levels of staff. "Staff has to know you have their back. You can't run a great organization if you have high turnover," said Robin Fowler, MD, founder of Interventional Management Services.

3. Get physicians involved. "I have never seen a situation where a physician was too involved," said Blayne Rush, MHP, MBA, president of Ambulatory Alliances. "The process typically leans towards not being involved enough. Physicians as a whole tend to be very busy people." Having involved physicians will benefit all aspects of the center, from physician recruitment and case volume to cash flow and valuation.

"This mindset can go a long way in helping physicians understand that being involved in recruitment is a good, worthwhile — and potentially profitable — use of their time," Mr. Rush said.

4. Conduct regular audits. Conduct regular audits of your internal processes to ensure quality in your business office, said Adriaan Epps, director of contracting services for abeo. "Audit medical records to make sure the coders are effectively coding things in the record and that the record is filled out properly," he said. 

Once a month, for example, you can go through the records and mark down any problem areas. You should also track the collection of co-insurance and co-payments up front. These checks can tell you whether or not your staff members are sticking to your policy of always asking for payment before surgery, which will in turn benefit your bottom line.

5. Understand the surgeon dynamic. Administrators must be keenly aware of the macro and micro elements of the healthcare market as they relate to their physicians and the daily activities at the ASC. "There is no shortcut for honest discussion with surgeons about how things are going and what they need to make the surgery center a better experience," said Joseph Zasa, co-founder and managing partner of ASD Management. "When the surgeons stop talking to you, you have a problem." Happier surgeons are more productive and will be more willing to bring their cases to your ASC.

More Articles on Improving Performance:
5 Steps on the Road to Higher Profits in ASCs
9 Mistakes to Avoid When Adding Spine Surgery to an ASC
5 Action Steps for In-Debt Surgery Centers

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