ASC, Surgery Scheduling
By Erik Sunset, October 25, 2022 - 3 min read
Profitability is the bedrock of ambulatory surgery center management and ownership teams' ability to compete with traditional in-patient settings. In such a fragmented market, ASCs must focus on developing effective surgery scheduling workflows to keep the lead. Without optimized delivery of care, providers can't give the best quality care, achieve highest levels of patient satisfaction, or maximize revenue generation.
For a well-established surgery center, profitability boils down to how efficient its scheduling practices are. Below, we'll discuss some of the best practices for surgery scheduling to optimize productivity and revenue.
Scheduling procedures according to specialty, type, and patient need is one of the most immediate ways to realize improvements.
By booking similar surgeries back-to-back, providers can minimize the time spent gathering equipment and performing clean-up. Reserve specific rooms for highly specialized procedures that require more extensive preparation.
Note which patients are likely to require more diligent observation and post-procedure care. Children, the chronically ill, or other high-risk patients may need more time in the OR. Complicated procedures that stretch beyond scheduled hours might incur costly staff overtime.
In ASCs, the biggest pitfall might be a difference in expectations between center staff and physicians. While more than half of centers saw higher patient volume since 2021, ASC leaders now report much higher staff turnover rates.
Staff turnover, surgeon tardiness, and late start times are symptomatic of poor communication with practitioners and center staff.
Negotiate the allocation of block times depending on the time slots that physicians prefer. Select a rate of OR utilization that balances staff satisfaction, overwork, and idleness.
According to Outpatient Surgery Magazine, studies show that physician satisfaction is one of the top five most important aspects of surgery scheduling. Higher staff satisfaction is linked to improved patient safety, too: "Engaged employees generally perform 20% better than their colleagues," the report notes. "Engaged staff deliver better quality care, lower patient mortality, and better error reporting."
Ultimately, the happiness of a center's providers and staff is key to resolving scheduling inefficiencies, patient delays, and poor clinical outcomes.
A surgery center is only as efficient as its scheduling staff. And for staff to operate at their best, they need a predictable workflow to handle complex (and often competing) requests from multiple parties.
Despite decades of technical advancements, many centers still partly rely on fax machines, phone calls, and paper forms. With such a deluge of information sources, mistakes aren't just commonplace: they're expected.
By implementing a robust system, centers can mitigate the expensive scheduling errors that result from overlapping appointments or operating room underutilization.
Develop predictable, single-channel processes for communicating adjustments to clinicians, schedulers, and patients. Surgery workflow software can streamline communication between centers and clinics, providing a centralized resource for staff to navigate daily scheduling challenges.
For many, ASCs represent one of the most impactful avenues for improving the quality of care and controlling costs. In 2016, ASCs reduced US healthcare costs by more than $38 billion, benefiting commercially insured consumers via lower deductibles and coinsurance payments. In the face of rising healthcare costs, ASCs can further solidify their competitive advantage over hospital outpatient departments (HOPDs) by instituting the best scheduling practices.