5 Ways to Save Money on Supplies in a GI-Driven ASC

Nancy Le Nikolovski, administrator of Physicians Endoscopy Center in Houston, discusses five ways to save money on supplies in a GI-focused ASC.

1. Demonstrate potential savings to physicians. Ms. Le Nikolovski says her center has been able to standardize many supplies and equipment by educating physicians on potential supply savings. "One of the most expensive supplies for us are our forceps, and we have different sizes of forceps, with the jumbo being the most expensive," she says. "Some physicians were trained on using jumbo forceps for every size polyp, not just jumbo polyps." She says she made a chart that showed the cost of the forceps and asked physicians if they would be able to use the smaller forceps while still providing quality care.

"When they saw they were able to do that and put it into practice, they wanted to do it," she says. "We definitely do not make changes without communicating to the physicians and letting them try it out." She says most physicians will be reasonable and want to participate in cost savings if you demonstrate that the quality of clinical care will not be adversely affected — and that other physicians can do the same procedure for less money.

2. Task business office managers with one cost saving project per month.
Every month, Ms. Le Nikolovski asks her business office managers to try to reduce the cost of one item in the ASC. Instead of inundating her staff with a long list of desired cost savings, she says isolating one item makes it easier to identify savings and research different vendors and discounts. "It could be as simple as refreshments," she says. "It adds up. One time my business office manager looked at [coffee in the ASC] and realized the price had gone up by a dollar." She says frequently overlooked items may be a good source for savings in your ASC, as staff members may not have analyzed potential discounts before.

3. Network with other GI-driven facilities. Ms. Le Nikolovski says her business office is highly encouraged to network with other facilities and participate in various societies to pick up any helpful tips on saving money. It can help to network with other GI-focused centers that probably encounter similar issues. "It's very important for [GI centers] to keep an eye on cost, because our reimbursement is not as high as some of the other multi-specialty centers," she says.

Most ASC administrators recommend affiliating with a national GPO, but Ms. Le Nikolovski adds that centers can also work with similar centers to promote a specialty-specific GPO. "I've been trying to work with other GI centers in town to promote a GI-specific GPO, because oftentimes, multi-specialty centers use different things than we do," she says. "It would be better if we could align ourselves with the other GI centers in town and say, 'Hey, we'd like to commit to buying X amount if you give us a discount.'" She says fostering these relationships also helps spread "best practices" among centers. If a certain center has found a good relationship with a particular vendor, other centers can benefit from that knowledge.

4. Look at the long-term savings, not the short-term cost.
Ms. Le Nikolovski recommends centers look at purchases with an eye to the future. "Don't look at it as a one-time buy, but something that we want to gain value over a period of time," she says. "That could be linen, for example. Instead of saying, 'What can I save in one day,' the value should be emphasized over a month, six months or even a year. It may cost a little bit more, but you might save more money by buying a month's worth of a particular supply than a week's worth."

5. Look for a 60 percent return on investment on new equipment. When her ASC considers adding new equipment, Ms. Le Nikolovski says she spends at least six months researching, looking at data, talking to other centers and doing cost-benefit analysis and prediction of the return on investment. "We have to be able to present the new revenue stream and demonstrate that it is going to add value to our centers," she says. "We typically look for returns on investment of at least 55-60 percent and choose to add equipment that will be profitable."

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