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Are You Ready to Open Your First Surgery Center?

An image of an open sign on an ambulatory surgery center.

Learn about the benefits and challenges of physician-owned ASCs.

For physicians who regularly perform medical procedures, owning an ambulatory surgery center (ASC) can be a great way to leverage control over business operations and grow your healthcare practice.

Owning a surgical center may result in more favorable scenarios for you and your patients, especially if they’re used to billing surprises and the stressful ambience they may experience in a hospital. ASCs can offer easier, more comfortable experiences for them, while helping you to grow your practice.

Here, we’ll discuss some of the benefits and challenges to consider when thinking about opening a surgery center.

Benefits of Opening a Surgical Center

A surgery center can allow you to focus more deeply on your specialty. By focusing your ASC on a specialized list of procedures, you may be able to:

  • Fill service gaps in your geographic market
  • Offset practice start-up and operational costs
  • Capture new revenue opportunities
  • Support lower costs across healthcare
  • Drive engagement with a greater service offering
  • Increase patient satisfaction with streamlined care

These strategic pluses may vary by specialty, but for physicians who are prepared, an ASC can be an exciting new business opportunity.

Growing Your Business with an ASC

Physician’s Weekly reports that up to 90% of surgery centers have a certain level of physician ownership with 65% being owned solely by physicians. It’s worth noting that in a sole ownership scenario, physicians are required to manage day-to-day operations, so if this interests you, consider how you might fit these responsibilities into your current workload. Prepare your current practice by automating tasks, streamlining workflows, and bringing revenue cycles under control.

Limiting Healthcare Costs for Everyone

A Journal of Spine Surgery review notes that a surgical center may have the power to limit healthcare costs for patients. That’s because your ASC may have a lower cost to serve than a hospital.

An abstract of the review says, “Patients can pay less for their care, physicians can share in greater profit and the healthcare industry, which is in dire need of cost control, has a significant financial opportunity to decrease spending without sacrificing the quality of care.”

This can occur in a few notable ways:

  • A specialized scope of procedures may result in lower capital expenses, since equipment investment is limited, compared to hospitals.
  • By privatizing procedure offerings, you may carry lower amounts of unpaid billing, because you can vet your patients and their payers.
  • When you run an outpatient surgery center, you reduce the overhead required to care for patients. This creates meaningful cost efficiencies that can make a difference over time, resulting in lower costs for you, for patients and for Medicare.

The same review reports that a gastroenterology endoscopy procedure in an ASC may cost approximately 48% of the hospital cost. A colonoscopy in a surgery center may cost approximately 40% of the hospital cost.

How to Find Your ASC’s Market Fit

For your surgical center to succeed, it’s important to discover the appropriate market fit. Market fit refers to how your service offering aligns with current or future demand.

The Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA) notes the most prevalent specialties of Medicare-certified surgery centers are endoscopy and ophthalmology, which, combined, comprise more than 50%. Following that are orthopedics and plastic surgery centers.

Physicians in these specialties may find that demand for these surgery centers is particularly high. From a strategic point of view, that may mean that finding the right market fit for you comes down to filling geographic gaps, offering competitive alternatives to other centers in your area, or finding other ways to attract underserved populations.

If your career is in another specialty, the market may have wider opportunities for you. Being first to market can have advantages, like building awareness more easily or capturing a larger share of demand for services. You may also have to invest in patient education to help people understand why they might choose a surgery center over a hospital.

Building the Right Partnerships

For your surgery center to perform to plan, you may need to develop a wide range of partnerships:

  • New-hire healthcare providers and admins to work at the ASC
  • Vendors that provide tools and solutions for daily operations
  • Third-party management companies to help with compliance, marketing, legal and regulatory advice

By forming these partnerships early in your development phases, you can begin to refine your processes, build culture and optimize workflows.

Attracting and Retaining ASC Staff

Team-building can be challenging at any medical practice. When you’re starting from scratch or have only a few staff members you can transfer to your new surgical center, you may need to dedicate time to people resources.

One way to do this is by creating an appealing company culture that attracts and retains top talent in your area. Physicians can do this at their present medical practices and as they grow their surgery centers. While the skills required to manage an ASC may be different from the softer skills used to manage people, it’s worthwhile to build this type of management muscle.

With a strong staff as part of your surgery center, you can build the support structures to focus on patient engagement, satisfaction and outcomes.

Surgery Center Software Solutions

In order to support your staff in return, it’s vital that you provide them with the tools and solutions they need to excel. With high levels of activity at surgery centers, you can ease the demands on their time and energy by relying on the efficiencies and visibility of a complete software suite.

For example, our gastroenterology and ophthalmology ASC solutions help your staff stay in control of the workday and get more done by keeping everything in one place. Our practice management systems connect seamlessly with our EHR to integrate records automatically.

Third-Party ASC Management

In addition to the business demands of owning a surgery center, physicians must comply with a variety of laws, regulations and rules.

An important one to note is the applicability of the physician self-referral law, commonly known as the Stark law. This law limits how physicians can issue referrals to their own services.

Working with third-party management firms may ease parts of the workload that are allowed to be eased and help tackle some of the legal and regulatory challenges associated with owning an ASC.  Third parties can also assist with insurance and other payer agreements.

Tracking Your Surgery Center’s Growth

Continue your surgical center growth by keeping track of practice benchmarks and performance analytics. ModMed makes it easier for you to pull reports and data visualizations related to payment or reimbursement, clinical data, staff productivity and other internal metrics.

By keeping these metrics top of mind — or at least, easy to find — you can help advance your ambulatory surgery center and discover new growth opportunities as your new ASC becomes more established.

For more on how ModMed can support your ASC, request a demo.

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Please consult with your legal counsel and other qualified advisors to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and standards.