How to ride information to the top: Maximizing the value of ASC data

John NewmanData is all the rage in healthcare, but what can it actually do for ambulatory surgery centers?

Why you need it
Data is the framework on which an ASC's past, present and future is built. It describes a center's historical financial and quality performance, creates the benchmarks the center strives to meet today and paves the way for future development.

"You are not going to be able to identify your growth opportunities if you don't have data," says John Newman, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Constitution Surgery Centers. "If you don't have it, you don't know what money you are leaving on the table and you can't negotiate effectively with third party payers."

What ASCs actually need
While data can seem like the proverbial torch in the dark, there is such a thing as too much. "You need to create a dashboard to get meaningful information out to the physicians without overwhelming them," says Mr. Newman. An administrator may see a larger amount of data on a day-to-day basis, but a physician dashboard will aggregate internal and external data that paints a picture of the ASC's value and how to maximize it. Selected key items to include on a dashboard would be:

•    Utilization by provider
•    ASC case mix and volume data
•    ASC payer mix
•    Accounts receivable
•    Facility financial reports on a monthly basis  

Compare apples to apples and break down internal data by specialty. Any external benchmarking should be done against similar ASCs.

Capturing the data
A busy ASC generates an enormous amount of data. Once ASC leaders have determined what is actually useful, they need the software and data management systems in place to capture and understand that information.

"You have to look at your IT platform first. With compliance issues and HIPAA, you must make an investment there," says Mr. Newman. "But, you can have the best data capture system in the world and don't know what you have. You need experienced people who can handle data analytics."

For most standalone ASCs, IT infrastructure is a significant investment. Employing the talent to analyze raw data will most likely be an outsourced service, but an ASC with a hospital partner or experienced management company may already have access to that service and can access the IT resources of their partners.

Putting it in the right hands
Place the data determined to be valuable in physicians' hands at least monthly. These reports will be key tools in educating physicians on the economics of their own practices. Regularly share data with administrative staff as well. Any financial and quality changes made will be backed by hard data; it is valuable to share this information with staff and to allow them to track their progress.

Data at work in the market
Many ASC leaders have perfected the art of putting data to work inside their centers, but that information has equal value outside a center. "In the past, it has been difficult for ASCs to open the door with payers, but now you can bring data to the table quantifying the unique coupling of  cost-effectiveness with quality that ASCs often achieve and start to build solid relationships with payers," says Mr. Newman. This can not only allow ASCs to negotiate more favorable reimbursement, but sometimes to also expand on the scope of procedures payers are willing to reimburse.

Armed with the appropriate data ASCs can effectively negotiate with payers and open the discussion for different kinds of partnerships. Solid data can open the door to accountable care organization partnerships or allow for participation as a center of excellence. "You can show how the ASC addresses every single quality criteria and achieves cost-savings as well. You've suddenly significantly improved your market presence and negotiating profile," says Mr. Newman. "This is because of the power of analytics. You have the data to back it up."

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