ASCs in the next 5 years: 3 expert insights

Healthcare is going through significant changes due to the pandemic and ASCs are in a prime position to thrive.

The technology is in place to ease the transition of higher acuity cases into the outpatient centers and payers are seeing the benefits. However, there are still many challenges ahead for ASCs, especially freestanding centers that wish to remain independent. During an Oct. 15 panel at the Becker's ASC Virtual Event, industry experts gathered to discuss the major trends and opportunities for ASCs today.

The panel included:
Donna Cooper, COO of DuPage Medical Group in Downers Grove, Ill.
David Rothbart, MD, medical director of Spine Team Texas ASC in Southlake
Matt Searles, partner with Merritt Healthcare

Below is an excerpt from the discussion. Click here to access the recording on demand.

Note: this article is lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What is your outlook for the ASC industry in the next five years? What do you think will be the same and what will be different?

Matt Searles: We certainly think that the business will thrive in the next five years as it has thrived. It's just going to be a much more difficult business to be successful in. It is getting increasingly harder to operate these entities. In the old days you could get somebody who would run a one-room ASC with three or four doctors and it would do really well. It wasn't as reliant on narrow networks, referrals or payer networks. … We have individual centers that are full of independent physicians that are losing their referral basis and don't really have a lot of leverage with payers. I think that most of them recognize that and are moving toward partnerships that allow them to mitigate those risks.

Dr. David Rothbart: We have inpatient procedures that were inpatient only, particularly in arthroplasty, that are now being converted to outpatient. We have enhanced recovery protocols that have allowed procedures that were never really ever considered, such as lumbar fusions, to be done as an outpatient. We have technologies such as image guidance and robotics that are taking highly complex procedures, making them more amenable to the outpatient setting. There's going to be continued pressure on cost and we have an aging population. So procedures in general would be expected to grow, and as we get more and more of these types of procedures that can be done in cost-effective settings. I think the market will only be growing from our standpoint.

Donna Cooper: I have to echo what David and Matt said. The intensity and capabilities to perform more and more in our ambulatory surgery centers, just given the technology and changing dynamics, will substantially increase the number and intensity of cases that we're able to do in the surgery center. Even in light of COVID, there's the patient's desire is to go to a place they can drive into, people aren't necessarily sick, they're there to receive surgery. It makes them feel much safer, walking into a surgery center than going into a bigger hospital institution or organization.

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