2022 has come to a close, and ASC leaders are looking to the future to grow and thrive. Here's what ASC leaders told Becker's they're looking at this year:
Forming the right team:
Staffing is a number one issue for ASCs and the healthcare industry as a whole as labor and operating costs rise. Amid healthcare's Great Resignation, ASCs will need to remain focused on recruiting and retaining the perfect team to succeed.
"We need to be able to have the right team so that whatever challenges we face in the next five years can and will be handled," Neeraja Kikkeri, CEO of North Texas Team Care Surgery Center in Mesquite, told Becker's. "No one expected COVID, but our executive team did everything to pay our staff — some even cut their pay to continue to pay our hourly folks — and we did not let go of anyone during that time. In fact, shortly afterward we hired more people."
Focusing on orthopedics:
High acuity procedures, such as orthopedics, offer a massive financial opportunity for ASCs. Additionally, orthopedics is the most common specialty for ASCs in 2022, according to March data from the ASC Association.
Many ASCs are doubling down on their high-acuity orthopedic procedures to drive revenue in 2023.
"The growth in orthopedics, spine and pain has been steady and will remain so. These are safe specialties, as the need is always there and will continue to thrive for various reasons," Annu Navani, MD, founder and CEO of Comprehensive Spine & Sports Center in Campbell, Calif., told Becker's. "First, they offer a vast spectrum of services, many of which can be administered via telehealth. In addition, there is a trend to drift toward minimally invasive surgeries that can be performed in nonhospital-based outpatient facilities like ASCs or in-office procedure suites that are less regulated and less likely to shut down during a surge of the pandemic. This has led to quite a bit of interest in investment in these specialties."
Eyeing payer compensation trends:
Increasing unemployment and an aging population are just two trends affecting payer behavior. Smart ASCs will keep an eye on these trends to stay flexible regarding payer contracts.
"Payer compensation is very important with the payer mix being at the forefront," Marla Roberts, RN, founder and CEO of Periop Accreditation Readiness in Waverly, Tenn., told Becker's. "Due to the increasing unemployment numbers, there will be more people without insurance. However, even those with insurance will struggle meeting their new high deductible plans, copays and prescription bills."
Many ASCs, particularly newer ASCs, are focusing on recruiting the right physicians to their centers. Although physicians are increasingly migrating to employed models, ASCs can offer a more flexible and efficient schedule for physicians.
"We're also looking to recruit new physicians," Deborah Herdman, RN, administrator at Paragon Surgery Center in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, told Becker's. "We ask them to come visit our center and meet the staff, keep them updated on our activities, and review their procedures to assure them that we can safely and efficiently provide the highest quality care to their patients."
While growth is important, some leaders are focusing on maintaining stability after a hectic few years of COVID-19 disruptions and labor shortages.
"People are obsessed with quarterly statements and growth, growth, growth. My practice has been stability and slow growth," Brian Gantwerker, MD, spine neurosurgeon at the Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles, told Becker's. "I've had to make some changes; one of my offices I had to close because it was costing money to actually see patients there. So we did some consolidating, but we'll have more of a pool now throughout the local area. We offer a great alternative to the big-box medicine with very fast appointments."
Amid the "shopping" era of healthcare, patients have a plethora of information about their healthcare choices at their fingertips. Many leaders are focusing on steering patients in the right direction and sharing their own tools so that patients can make the right decisions.
"My marketing is really targeted towards a philosophy of providing the patient with well informed decision-making tools, and then allowing them to use that information to make a shared decision with me on the best approach to their treatment, instead of having me just tell them what to do. I'm trying to really empower them to learn about their issues," Rick Ngo, MD, founder and general surgeon at Texas Surgical Specialists in Fort Worth, told Becker's.
ASCs have learned the importance of flexibility in the last few years, and leaders are learning to harness this flexibility as the industry continues to shift.
"One other thing that's important for leaders is we're in an environment of constant change, and we need to do as much as we can to understand that change and embrace it, and determine how we can change our operations to deal with that," Mark Hood, CEO of Southlake-based Spine Team Texas, told Becker's.