Ambulatory service centers (ASCs) are getting more popular—and more competitive.
Regularly reported as one of the biggest growth areas in modern healthcare, ASCs are projected to grow 16% by 2026. The outpatient facilities have skyrocketed in popularity for their abilities to save patients money and time: Procedures that used to require a hospital (and an overnight hospital stay) can now be performed by licensed surgeons on a same-day basis.
But with the growth in ASCs has come a new set of challenges. While ASCs provide more flexibility than hospitals in terms of setup and staffing, that flexibility puts the burden on ASC owners to find staff, manage operational costs, and adhere to changing regulations. All while trying to stay a step ahead of growing competition.
For the ASC owners of today, maximizing profitability should be a paramount goal. And all profit goals should center around the fundamental value promise of ASCs: more efficient operations, better patient experience, and lower costs for all involved.
How ASC owners can maximize their profits
As with all businesses, the two levers available to ASC owners looking to maximize profits are to earn more and spend less. Here, I break down the key ways to pull each lever.
Growing revenue in ASCs
- Build a team of specialists. In 2020, ASCs got approved to perform full knee replacements; in 2021, full hip replacements followed suit. More procedures are on the way. To be ready, ASC owners should staff their facilities with surgeons who have a range of specialties.
Of course, be selective with who you bring on, and take care to minimize skill redundancies. But the more high-quality people you have who are qualified to perform the widest range of procedures, the more repeatable revenue you’ll bring in.
- Reduce surgery times (while abiding by regulations). The other way to expand your capacity is to constantly work toward reducing the time it takes to perform procedures. This of course doesn’t mean cutting corners to jam your schedule with as many procedures as possible, but encouraging your people to look for (and document) procedural efficiencies.
- Improve patient experience. A major advantage of ASCs is the personal touch they offer. Whereas hospitals can feel like big, sterile mazes, ASC owners have much more ability to control the environment of their facilities—and give patients direct access to physicians.
Anything you can do to delight your patients is a step in the direction of repeat revenue and recommendations. Perfect the atmosphere of your space, reduce wait times, handle billing and insurance promptly, and train your staff on best practices in patient relations.
Reducing costs in ASCs
- Tailor your equipment to patient needs. It might be tempting to fill your facility with all the latest equipment from all the most prestigious brands. But if you don’t end up using a fancy machine enough to warrant its cost, all it’s doing is reducing your precious square footage.
Purchase only the equipment that has direct relevance to patient needs. This can be based on your past experience or new developments in ASC regulations—i.e., if a new procedure is getting approved for ASCs, be the first one to have the equipment to perform it. Having the right equipment will reduce your capital expenditures and improve patient experience. And don’t forget, financing for medtech is becoming more widely available.
- Constant process assessments. Every single step in the patient care journey is a potential opportunity to reduce your costs. That could mean revamping your billing/copy agreements with vendors and providers, adopting telehealth infrastructure to triage and schedule patients more effectively, or outfitting your facility with smart tech to manage energy bills.
We’re in the middle of a sea change in the way patients get treatment. More care is shifting to more convenient locations—and more thought is going into how to perfect the experience. The owners who adopt a mindset of constant improvement now will fare the best as the space continues to grow.