5 Ways to Make Surgery Centers Better

Here are five ways to make your surgery center better.

1. Discipline employees properly. John Merski Jr., Managing Partner and Executive Director of Human Resources for MedHQ, says the number one rule of employee discipline is, "Act early." Don't wait until the twentieth time an employee shows up late to work to say something, because your reaction at that point will be much stronger than if you had spoken to the employee the first time. "If you notice a behavior not up to the standards of the company, you need to intercede with the gentlest approach at coaching," Mr. Merski says. "When that fails, you need to take a direct and structured approach that may result in the termination of the employee."

For example, when an employee comes in late for the first time, sit down and ask him or her about the reason for the lateness. Assure them that you understand but that the surgery center needs their presence and punctuality to function properly. That way, if the employee comes in late again, you can take a slightly more direct  approach, until eventually you start discussing suspension, pay cuts or termination. It is well known that a "retooling" of an employee is considerably more beneficial to the workplace than a replacement if it can be completed properly.

2. Conduct regular inventory counts.
Beth Johnson, vice president of clinical systems at Blue Chip Surgery Center Partners, says it is critical for ASCs to know what is in their inventory at all times. Blue Chip requires quarterly physical counts and utilizes weekly reports from inventory software to identify potential errors. "At any point in time, we know what we have on the shelves and the dollar value," Ms. Johnson says. She suggests frequent review of inventory "because supply costs can get out of control so quickly."

According to Ms. Johnson, one challenge in counting inventory may be bulk supply items or medications that are not charged back to the patient. Monthly, rather than quarterly, counts would be more appropriate for these items, she says. Knowing the exact price for supplies and how frequently they are used can help ASCs manage supply costs. "Know where every dime goes," says Bob Scheller, COO of Nikitis Resource Group.

3. Build a dependable coding team. You must be able to trust your coders to handle the claims from your surgery center appropriately. Otherwise, your claims will be denied and you won't be reimbursed properly. For example, make sure the coders are differentiating between arthroscopic and open procedures. Coders must read the entirety of an operative note to determine whether a procedure was open or arthroscopic, says Jessica Edmiston, coding manager with National Medical Billing Services. "Coders make mistakes because the doctor will state that he's going to do an open procedure in the procedure heading, but when he gets down to the procedure detail, he mentions scopes or vice versa," she says. If the operative note seems to contradict itself as to whether the procedure was open or arthroscopic, the coder should query the physician.

4. Emphasize the "local" in healthcare. Vice President of Development of Symbion Healthcare Danny Bundren says, "The ASC business is a local market business. What works in California will not work in Florida." ASCs that utilize their community resources could be better positioned to succeed. For example, Mr. Bundren mentioned that he had a local equipment vendor approach him to let him know about a handful of physicians that were potential "free agents" for an ASC. Establishing and mining those local relationships could benefit ASCs in ways they might not think, he said.

5. Train front office staff to optimize patient satisfaction. Front-end staff members who initially greet patients must be courteous and well organized. "Increased regulation has created a blizzard of forms and disclosures," Rajiv Chopra, of the C/N Group in Merrillville, Ind., observes. Front-end staff should explain the purpose of each form, emphasizing how it benefits the patient.

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