The health care business is increasingly shifting to an outpatient model. Thanks in part to an aging population, a growing number of surgeries, and improving health care technology, the ambulatory surgical center is positioned to be an important provider of medical care for years to come. American Surgical Development in Wilmington, DE has found that there are different ways for surgical center operators to continue developing their facilities so that they maintain a position of strength in the health care market.
Why Is the Ambulatory Surgical Center Model So Popular?
Cost and convenience both play a role in the rise of surgical centers. Because of their outpatient focus, surgical centers tend to be lower in cost and, as a result, more popular with both insurers and patients. They are also widely viewed as easily accessible. And because surgical centers offer a wide range of procedures from tonsillectomies and cataract surgeries to hernia repairs, many Americans have had occasion to use them and become acquainted with the model. In recent years surgical centers have begun to take on more complicated procedures, such as joint replacements and spine surgeries, in part because Medicare, Medicaid, and insurers have begun supporting an outpatient approach to these treatments. Mergers and consolidations in the hospital industry have also opened up opportunities for ambulatory surgical centers to take on a stronger role in health care.
How to Construct a Successful Surgery Center
If you’re establishing a new surgery center, there are a number of steps you can take to position your facility for success. Careful planning and design are key to setting up a new center.
Solicit Input From Physicians
If you already know some of the physicians who will perform procedures at the facility, interview them and ask about their workflow, their equipment needs, and how they like to interact with patients, nurses, and others. Their input will help you in designing a facility with a good flow. Knowing things like which procedures they’ll be performing and how long those procedures will take will also help determine other infrastructure elements, such as how many pre-op stations and recovery beds will be needed.
Carefully Plan Storage
Like many health care facilities, surgical centers need to have a lot of equipment on hand, and it all needs to be stored in an organized fashion. In addition to operating room equipment, the center will also need space to store anesthesia supplies, pharmaceuticals, gurneys, and more. Some of these items will need to be stored separately and securely. While a surgical center’s storage needs can be significant, it’s not always wise to design large, square storage rooms because, inevitably, equipment gets stuck in the rear where it is hard to access. Storage for patient belongings is also a factor. Some surgical centers offer a collection of lockers for patients to store their belongings in while surgery is in progress. Other surgical centers deal with the storage of patient belongings in other ways.
Keep Future Expansions in Mind
Whether you’re constructing a surgery center from the ground up or renting space in an existing medical building, it’s wise to think about how you can expand the facility years down the road, if necessary. This may mean positioning clinical areas and operating rooms so that they will be centrally located in the surgical center even after an expansion.
Estimate Case Volume
When developing a brand new surgical center, it helps to have an idea of the patient volume the center will be serving. It’s also important to understand that patient volumes will likely grow over the years. Having a rough idea of how many patients the center will serve will help determine things like the number of pre-op stations and recovery beds, the size of the waiting room, and the amount of space devoted to medical record storage.
Be Thoughtful About Layout
A busy surgical center can operate more efficiently if certain units are clustered together to support each other. This may mean locating the business staff in the general vicinity of the patient check-in desk. It also may make sense to position the scheduling desk near the operating room, so that schedulers and clinical managers can easily consult with each other about questions or problems.
Design With Patient Privacy in Mind
Construct the facility with an eye toward ensuring that patient information and doctor-patient communication is kept private. This means ensuring that rooms are soundproofed, medical record storage is secure, and that there are private areas for doctors to consult with patients. It is also important to make sure computers are situated so that onlookers can’t glance over and see the electronic medical records of patients.
Consider Multiple Designs
Designing a successful facility involves thorough research and exhaustively exploring all of the options. Talk with multiple architects and review multiple designs. Even surgical center operators that begin the design process with firm ideas already in mind benefit from the process of exploring and combining various options. If possible, it can also be helpful to visit other surgical centers to see how they are designed.
Be Sure to Build to Code
Health care facilities must adhere to different, and sometimes stricter, building codes than other businesses to ensure maximum safety. Surgical centers already have complicated design needs as well as space constraints, so it’s important to make sure the additional code considerations are taken into consideration from the very beginning. It can be helpful to work with a contractor that has experience developing health care facilities in the state you’ll be operating in.
How to Bolster Business at an Existing Surgery Center
Even if you already have a successful surgery center, there are steps you can take to ensure that your facility stays relevant and remains a health care provider of choice in your community. This can involve everything from rigorous community outreach to keeping up with the latest technology.
Identify New Procedures
One way to increase the volume of patients an ambulatory surgical center serves is to work with area physicians to identify new procedures they need done and then develop the ability to perform those procedures. For example, by working with local orthopedic surgeons a center may learn about new minimally invasive joint procedures that could be performed. By developing the ability to perform those procedures, the ambulatory surgical center will grow its own patient base as well as the number of patients local doctors offices serve.
Educate Referring Physicians
When doctors refer their patients to a surgical center, or to any other type of health provider, they want to know that the patient will be taken care of. They also want to be kept in the loop and given updates about how the procedure went. One of the easiest ways to develop business at a
surgical center is to connect with local physicians to make them aware of the quality of care and the range of procedures the center offers. Sharing patient satisfaction scores and clinical successes with physicians at educational sessions or networking events will help them develop comfort and confidence in the center. And when they send referrals your way, be sure to keep them in the loop on patients’ procedures and progress.
Market Directly to Consumers
Referring physicians aren’t the only individuals the ambulatory surgical center should work to win over. Patients themselves are increasingly taking active roles in selecting the facilities they receive health care from. Surgery centers shouldn’t be shy about mounting direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns and using social media to share their story. Having a current and user-friendly website, perhaps one that even features testimonials for satisfied patients, is also a great step for centers looking to grow their business to take.
Keep Data on Successes
It’s essential that surgical centers track patient satisfaction, patient outcomes, and the frequency and nature of any medical complications that arise. This kind of data goes a long way when it comes to encouraging physicians to refer patients to the center. Increasingly insurer and other payers will also expect to see this type of data. And collecting this type of information doesn’t have to be difficult. A good way to start is by surveying patients about their experience before they leave the center. Post-visit phone and emailed surveys can also be successful.
Make Scheduling Easy
For a variety of reasons, physicians don’t always refer all of their surgical patients to ambulatory centers. Sometimes they schedule a portion of their patients for outpatient procedures at the local hospital. This is sometimes done because a physician’s office manager is more comfortable and familiar with the hospital scheduling process. The referring physician’s own schedule may also factor into the decision to send some patients to a hospital setting for outpatient surgeries. To combat this, surgical centers should look for a way to make scheduling easy and connect with the office managers that work with physicians.
Keep the Ambulatory Surgical Center Current
Health care facilities have shifted away from the institutional settings of decades past. Patients today increasingly expect medical practices, surgical centers, and hospitals to be more contemporary and creative in design, with more colorful interiors and warm environments. There is also an expectation that waiting rooms will have some of the amenities that are now commonplace in many public spaces, such as Wi-Fi access and electrical outlets for charging phones and other devices.
Stay Technologically Up to Date
In addition to keeping the design of a facility current, it’s also important to stay technologically up to date. Whether it’s deploying surgical robots where appropriate or staying on top of developments in electronic health care record keeping, the referring physicians a surgical center works will take note of these efforts.
Seek Out Community Partnerships
Look for opportunities to establish programs and partnerships that benefit patients and the community. This could involve partnering with a community organization to target under-served groups and bringing in new patients who wouldn’t otherwise have access to screenings. These types of outreach efforts build relationships with patients who may later have more serious medical needs and establish the surgical center as a trusted health care provider in the community.
The ambulatory surgical center model will see continued growth in the coming years as the health care landscape shifts in favor of more technologically advanced treatments offered in an outpatient setting. For existing surgical centers, this will mean more players in the market and a heightened need to stay competitive. Contact American Surgical Development in Wilmington, DE today and work with a partner and a resource to better navigate the shifting landscape.