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How to Deal With Rising Orthopedic Implant Costs at ASCs

The biggest threat to orthopedics-driven ASCs is implants and current pricing trends, according to a panel of industry experts.

At the 12th Annual Spine, Orthopedic and Pain Management-Driven ASC Conference in Chicago on June 12, several ASC leaders gathered for a panel titled “Key Steps to Improve Profits at Orthopedic-Driven ASCs.”

The panel included Principal at The C/N Group Rajiv Chopra; Boston Out-Patient Surgical Suites Administrator Gregory P. Deconciliis, PA-C, CASC; Regional Vice President of Operations at Meridian Surgical Partners Brian Brown; and COO of ASD Management Sandra Jones. Managing Editor of Becker’s Hospital Review Molly Gamble moderated the panel.

“Dealing with the increasing costs of implants and trying to get fair prices from the manufacturers is challenging,” said Ms. Jones. “Preferred vendors for the orthopedic surgeons are an issue. Sometimes surgeons have to be educated on pricing and be the one who talks to the vendors about implants. Costs are going up and insurance companies don’t want to pay for it.”

One of the most common ways to begin cost-saving efforts with implants is to elect a physician champion. “It isn’t rare to find a physician champion in the centers,” said Mr. Brown. “We are in a relationship business, and we need to build relationships with the physicians. Laying out the cost information on paper is a great way to help physicians understand why this is important and become better champions.”

Mr. Chopra advises to keep suggested changes credible among the physicians. “The first question is what the impact will be on quality and patient outcomes,” he said. “Then where the savings are going; are they going to see an increased distribution? Are there going to be raises or bonuses for the staff? You have to have parity if not better on outcomes and understand where those dollars are going.”

Mr. Deconciliis developed a system at his surgery center to rank the cost of implants with a color code to let physicians know how expensive different materials are. Then they can make educated decisions about what to use.

“Physicians are very visual people,” said Mr. Brown. “We have gone to the extent of writing the cost on the materials. I don’t want my physicians thinking about cost when they are looking over the patient, but when they make those decisions about what to use initially, I want them to know the price.”

Ms. Jones does case-costing with physicians at her center. She creates data sheets to compare costs for different surgeons and blinds the data during distribution. “It’s an eye-opener,” she said. “They tend to self-correct when they have that information. We try to do this about once per quarter to get them in the mindset of thinking about their data.”

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