Top priorities for ASC leaders today and in 2021: 7 key trends

The outlook for ASCs is bright despite challenges brought on by the pandemic in the past year.

ASC owners, operators and industry leaders gathered for the Becker's Healthcare ASC Virtual Event on Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. The first part of the event included 10 sessions with speakers outlining the big opportunities for outpatient surgery centers to thrive in the next year.

Click here to view the sessions on demand and register for Part II of the event.

Here are seven takeaways from Part I:

1. The top priority for ASCs right now is ensuring their centers are following the latest pandemic guidelines and keeping their patients and staff safe. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn't really created any new trends for ASCs. Rather, it has supercharged existing trends. The movement of outpatient procedures to ASCs has been here for a while. Now it's about scaling total joint replacement procedures and making sure appropriate transfer agreements and accreditations are in place.

2. The adoption of robots is accelerating in the spine and total joints fields. Emerging surgeons want to work with the latest technology on the market. Although robots can be expensive investments, ASCs will need to invest in the technology to attract the next generation of top surgeons.

3. The future looks bright for ASCs. Many ASC administrators have used the pandemic to drill down policies and focus on the safety of patients and staff. One benefit for the industry is the ability to highlight the cost, efficiency and safety of procedures performed at ASCs. More patients may request treatment at ASCs in the future after reaping these benefits with procedures done during the pandemic.

4. Orthopedic and spine surgeons continue to experience pushback from payers to taking more complex procedures to the ASC. Despite CMS' approval of total knees and several spine procedures, orthopedic surgeons report continued roadblocks from insurance companies in some markets with unsustainably low pay rates. If the pay rate won't cover a procedure in the ASC, surgeons are taking them back to the hospital.

5. Burnout and engagement are on two extreme ends of a continuum, which may ebb and flow for healthcare professionals. Leadership and a healthcare organization's culture play a huge role in where team members sit on this spectrum. To promote a culture of engagement, leaders must ensure they are addressing employees' physician, mental, emotional and financial needs. Leaders must also foster a sense of teamwork and shared vision to promote this culture.

6. A great administrator faces a crisis head-on and is open and transparent with the team. These leaders must be comfortable with saying "I don't know" in the face of uncertainty and be able to admit when they make a mistake. Doing so brings a crucial human element to crisis response efforts and reminds everyone that they are in this together.

7. With the expansion of remote care amid COVID-19, GI providers have seen an increase in demand for colonoscopy alternatives, such as fecal immunochemical testing. Whether the current demand for these services will persist beyond the pandemic is still up for debate.

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