What 8 ASC leaders learned in the past year

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The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the migration of procedures to the outpatient setting, leaving ASC leaders balancing changes in both procedure volume and pandemic policy in the past year. 

Here is what eight ASC leaders learned in the past year: 

Editor's note: These responses were edited lightly for clarity and brevity. 

Glynis Thakur. Principal consultant and lead negotiator of Advanced Negotiations (Bellevue, Wash.): The most important thing I’ve learned is how badly in need of ASCs the hospitals are. They are desperate for ASCs and have tried to purchase at least three of mine in the past year. The value of the independent ASC is increasing as more payers force procedures to be performed in ASCs, as opposed to hospital settings.

Alfonso del Granado. Administrator of Covenant High Plains Surgery Center (Lubbock, Texas): Togetherness may not be a current buzzword, but it describes the ethos that allowed this center to thrive during the pandemic. Every decision was made with three vital issues considered: How does this affect the patients, the staff and the physicians? What kept patients coming was the knowledge that we were doing everything possible to keep them safe and take care of their needs. What kept the staff loyal was the physicians' willingness to sacrifice their profits to keep them fully employed and to share the health risks at their side. What kept the physicians engaged was the desire to preserve and protect the organization they had created and the people they served. This sense of mutual obligation and shared risk brought and kept everyone together through the tough days of the shutdown and the tougher days of the recovery.

David Bittner. CEO of OAA Orthopaedic Specialists (Allentown, Pa.): 2020 was a year of pandemic crisis that came with challenges and opportunities. The challenges were the constant adaptation needed to continue to provide excellence in care — to provide both safety to our team members and patients, while still providing a patient experience that is second-to-none. The mission is safe patient care, so it was, and always is, "all hands on deck."

Most importantly, we focused on family — here at OAA we treat each other and our patients like family. I am confident everyone would agree that there is no task too grand to accomplish on behalf of your family. We executed the year with precision and a steadfast focus of safety and adaptation to change. The lesson here is that together, as an independent family, our internal relationships can lead us to accomplish anything we set our minds upon.

Aby Morris, RN. Administrator of Union City (Tenn.) Surgery Center: In the last year, our center has learned how to evolve with a continuous stream of ever-changing mandates regarding COVID-19. Our infection control nurse, emergency coordinator, administration and medical director have worked jointly to research, develop and implement policy, procedures and protocols to ensure and maintain the highest level of patient safety. Our board of directors was quick to respond to these requests for changes, and their timely approval was instrumental in allowing our center to effectively treat patients during such a trying time. 

Amber Gilroy. CEO of Cascade Eye & Skin Centers (University Place, Wash.): We have learned that it is very important to have physician buy-in and knowledge of all of the policies for consistency and improved outcomes. We have reinstituted quarterly meetings to review and discuss any issues in our ASC, and it has helped keep all of us on the same page.

David Printy. Co-founder of TruDataFax (New London, N.C.): Flexibility! Given various opinions along the COVID-19 trail, it was important for physician leadership to make timely and safe decisions so patient care was not delayed whenever possible. Doing our own testing was critical to making all parties feel safe and be safe.

Robert Ball, MD. CEO of Southwest Florida Pain Center (Port Charlotte): 

Here are the five things I learned: 

1. Supply chain disruptions are a real possibility. Providers and staff must be willing to adapt.

2. The marriage of healthcare and big tech is gaining steam, and patients will expect medical providers and facilities to adapt and embrace the change due to the added convenience it offers the patient.

3. It is important to be prepared for revenue disruptions. We maintain a business line of credit and are conservative with operating revenue and expenses during these uncertain times.

4. Physician reimbursement and employment contracts must adapt to meet the future reality of likely decreased physician compensation and the rise of mid-level providers in the pain management space.

5. Our core team of employees has proven itself to be highly adaptable. Getting through all the disruptions and curveballs associated with this COVID-19 pandemic has been a true team effort.

Gregg Florentin. CEO of Michigan Orthopaedic Surgeons (Southfield): We learned how to adapt our merged super group in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic — where challenges stemmed from combined cultures, new expectations, trying to eliminate the "this is how it's always been" mentality and building morale.

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