5 Ways to Save Money at GI Centers

GI-driven surgery centers must run as well-oiled machines in order to turn a profit; due to reimbursement cuts for the specialty, efficiency is critical, and tactics that can decrease turnover times, speed up cases and decrease supply costs are essential to profitability. Brent McLean, administrator of Memorial Mission Surgery Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., discusses five ways his GI-driven ASC cut costs over the last year.

1. Streamline GI supplies.
Mr. McLean says his center cut supply costs in 2011 by moving GI supplies to a centralized location, rather than stocking them in each separate procedure room. Previously, each room stocked its own supplies, and staff members tended to hoard supplies because they were worried they would run out. With the new system, the GI supplies are all stored in a central location in the GI lab, approximately 15 feet away from the procedure rooms. Each procedure room has a par level to stop supplies from being hoarded and to keep everyone aware of how supplies are distributed.

"Previously, each procedure room was considered its own room," Mr. McLean says. "We could have plenty of supplies in the GI lab to handle the entirety of the cases, but because someone didn't have the supplies in their room, they would contact materials. Instead of materials storing any GI supplies, they just take it right off the truck and over to a central spot in the GI lab."

2. Stock supplies for the next day.
To keep staff members from hoarding supplies, Mr. McLean has instituted a policy where staff stock supplies for the next day only. "They stock at the end of the day from that central GI area only for the next day's cases," he says. "Historically, they would just grab a whole bunch and have enough for three days." This keeps everyone on the same page, because every room has roughly the same amount of supplies, he says.

3. Post a communication board to track supply shortages. Mr. McLean says his center also posted a communication board in the central supply area so staff members could mark down any items in short supply. He says the center receives shipments every other day for GI because the center is located next to a hospital, so supplies can easily be re-ordered if they run low. "We have the ability to put that burden on the supplier as opposed to having to keep our inventory high," he says. "That was a big win in the second half of 2011, operationally and financially."

4. Use walkie-talkies to increase efficiency. GI centers thrive on efficiency because procedures can be performed quickly. The faster you can move, the more volume you'll be able to accommodate, and the more money you will make. Mr. McLean says his staff members use walkie-talkies to communicate between rooms instead of having to page providers.

"They use the walkie-talkies to say, 'We're done here, you can roll,'" he says. "We only have three procedure rooms, and towards the end of the year, it gets pretty busy." Walkie-talkies are relatively inexpensive and can do help to significantly increase efficiency and decrease turnover times in your facility, he says.

5. Fill out charts as you go.
Mr. McLean says his surgery center staff members also help to save money by filling out as much of each day's chart as possible as the day progresses. This saves time for staff members because it eliminates a backlog of paperwork and allows staff to complete charts during little moments of "down time" throughout the day. "We fill out little areas because it makes it easier and makes the day run smoother," he says. He says the ASC also uses an automated dictation system that standardizes physician notes and saves time on paperwork.

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