The ABCs of ASC Success

Updated on December 4, 2023
Doctors and nurses stacking hands.concept of mutual aid.

The ambulatory surgery center (ASC) market is expected to reach $59.3 billion by 2028. This growth is driven by increased consumer adoption and changes in payer policies that enable more types of surgical procedures to be safely and cost-effectively performed at these facilities. 

However, with more procedures comes an increase in patients, products, vendors and payors – all of which can slow down efficiency – whether it’s invoicing, care delivery, or reimbursements. To prepare for continued growth, ASCs must accelerate technology adoption to automate and improve back-end processes. Otherwise, they may see a decline in profitability as volumes increase.

There are a few foundational steps ASCs can take now to build a truly clinically integrated enterprise that will help them save costs and reduce variation – all without sacrificing the quality of care they offer.

Centralize ordering to get the right products at the right price 

ASCs can start to transform their operations by centralizing the ordering process. A typical ASC regularly conducts business with dozens of suppliers and often relies on manual processes. For example, the individual in charge of ordering may visit each supplier’s website to place their order directly. This process is time-consuming for teams with limited bandwidth, especially since most ASCs lack full-time materials managers and rely on nurses or techs to place orders. The lack of streamlined ordering can also lead to cost increases. For example, even if an ASC has an advantageous contract with one supplier, staff may still order a similar product from a different supplier out of convenience or forgetfulness. This adds unnecessary costs and reduces the profits that typically go to physicians who have full or partial ownership of the ASC.

To address this, ASCs need a centralized platform that consolidates their top suppliers into a single point of entry. This platform would house all the supply chain items, allowing for easy ordering with the click of a button. Ideally, the platform would direct purchasers to the most advantageous product in terms of cost and quality. For example, when an ASC needs to order catheters, a centralized solution would ensure that the item is ordered from their best-contracted supplier.  

The good news is that ASCs don’t need to invest in an expensive enterprise-level solution to help streamline the ordering process and reduce manual errors. Affordable materials management or inventory management systems with lightweight enterprise resource planning (ERP) functionality can be implemented. By doing so, ASCs can create a centralized ordering platform that automatically updates the material management information system (MMIS) or inventory management systems when an order is placed. This helps eliminate the waste that results from inefficient purchasing decisions or incorrect product orders (e.g., buying the wrong product at the wrong price).  

Investing in this type of solution will decrease supply chain costs over the long term, and staff will benefit from the reduced administrative burden. 

Solve the implant order problem through automation 

The increasing number of implant procedures, such as hip or knee replacements, is driving ASC growth. Implant orders make up approximately 10 percent of all purchase orders in healthcare, but they account for 40 to 60 percent of supply chain expenses. Despite this, the supply chain for implanted medical devices is not fully automated due to unique characteristics that complicate procurement and invoicing processes. Automating consignment implant orders is crucial as surgical volumes grow at ASCs.

Implant ordering in healthcare, whether for an ASC or the purchasing department of a large healthcare provider, is a complex process. It involves a wide range of implants used in medical specialties such as cardiac, orthopedics and ophthalmology. Typically, this process requires ongoing communication between supplier sales representatives and clinicians and can be influenced by physician preference. Unfortunately, there is no standardized process; each surgical procedure may require different parts and components. This lack of standardization poses a challenge in simplifying the automation ordering process and maintaining an appropriate inventory level. 

As the ASC market grows, coordinating the delivery of supplies to these additional points of care in a timely and efficient manner will be crucial to the market’s profitability. Streamlining implant orders in healthcare has been a significant challenge, but progress is underway. GHX, in cooperation with more than 20 of the industry’s leading suppliers and providers, recently identified a starting point to simplify the process.      

Digitize payments for implants and all other supplies and expenses

Many ASCs still rely on manual check-writing processes, a time-consuming, error-prone approach that often leads to delayed payments and missed opportunities for additional revenue. 

One way to address these challenges is to digitize the payment process. This can help streamline operations, reduce administrative costs, and help ensure timely and accurate payments. In doing so, ASCs can take advantage of prompt first-pay discounts and receive rebates, which can be a significant source of revenue. 

The benefits of digitization include improved efficiency, faster payment processing and increased revenue potential. By eliminating the need for paper-based records, it frees up precious resources and can provide real-time visibility into inventory levels and payment statuses, enabling ASCs to make more informed decisions about their operations. Digitization can also help identify potential revenue streams. For example, by capturing and analyzing data on implants, staff can identify opportunities to negotiate better pricing or take advantage of rebates. 

ASCs are growing in popularity because they represent a cost-effective and convenient option for patients, physicians and payers. To capitalize on this burgeoning opportunity, ASCs must take the time and make the necessary technology investments to streamline their back-end operations. This will empower them to optimize patient outcomes, improve efficiency and position themselves for success as patient volumes continue to grow.

Rob Stineman copy
Rob Stineman
Director, Strategy & Corporate Development at GHX

Rob Stineman is Director, Strategy & Corporate Development for GHX.