Hospitals put priority on outpatient surgery

Renovations add convenience in order to compete

Inconvenient parking. Not easy to find. No comfortable waiting area for family. These are just a few of the complaints same-day surgery patients have expressed over the years when asked about some hospital-based same-day surgery programs.

To address these complaints, hospitals are looking at same-day surgery as more than just another department of the hospital, says David C. Loveland, senior vice president of corporate relations for Evanston (IL) Northwestern Healthcare, which includes hospital-based same-day surgery programs at two hospitals.

To improve the hospital’s ability to compete with freestanding centers, the health care system set up a same-day surgery area on the third floor of the Evanston hospital and redesigned its parking garage so same-day surgery patients can park on the fifth level of the garage and walk through a canopied entrance directly into same-day surgery, says Loveland. The patient registers and is admitted in this area, and there is a comfortable family lounge in the area, he adds.

"Patients don’t have to wander through the halls of a large hospital to find same-day surgery anymore, so we now offer the same convenience of a freestanding center," he explains.

At the health care system’s Glenbrook, IL, hospital, a major renovation will result in the relocation of same-day surgery and gastrointestinal diagnostics lab to a side of the hospital that will give them their own outpatient entrance, lobby, admissions area, and waiting area, Loveland says. "This is another example of customer-focused service with a separate entrance, parking right at the entrance, and an easy-to-find registration desk," he explains.

In addition to making sure physical facilities are appealing to customers, Loveland’s facilities also have promoted elective surgical procedures to help surgeons attract new patients, he says.

"We’ve promoted cosmetic surgery procedures and LASIK surgery," he says. "The facility used advertisements and community newsletters to attract patients who were referred to surgeons on the hospital’s staff. These materials were a good way to promote the same-day surgery program as well as the facility’s surgeons, he adds.

Evanston’s efforts to make hospital-based same-day surgery programs look more like freestanding centers in terms of convenience, pleasant environment, and easy access have been successful, Loveland says. "We knew that a Chicago-based eye center that specialized in LASIK had planned to open a center in our area, but we have developed such a strong position in this market, among consumers and physicians, that the company decided it would be too difficult to enter the market," he adds.

Making sure your same-day surgery program also keeps your surgeons happy is another way to compete with freestanding centers, says Tim Clontz, executive vice president at Moses Cone Health System in Greensboro, NC. Block scheduling and attention to quick turnover of rooms, have kept surgeons at the facility, he says. In addition, the hospital in Greensboro increased the number of operating rooms in the same-day surgery center on campus from six to eight in a four-year period.

The health system also set up the center as a limited partnership between physicians and the hospital, Clontz says. "These surgeons are part owners of the same-day surgery facility and equipment at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital, so their interests in the facility’s success are the same as ours," he adds. A second same-day surgery center will be located on the ground floor of a three-story medical office building on the campus of Wesley Long Community Hospital, another Greensboro hospital in the system. This center also will give physicians an opportunity to partner with the hospital, Clontz says.

"The difference between the new center and the current center is that the physicians in the new center actually will have input into the day-to-day operations of the center," he says.

After years of continued growth in the demand for same-day surgery and the increasing pressure of freestanding centers, hospitals can no longer think of same-day surgery just like every other department, Loveland says. "From a customer service and an operational standpoint, you can’t run an outpatient surgery department the same way you run an inpatient surgery department," he says. "Even if your same-day surgery department is within your building, you have to make it seem more accessible, more friendly, and discreet from other parts of the hospital."

Sources

For more information on positioning hospital-based programs to compete with freestanding surgery centers, contact:

David C. Loveland, Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, 1603 Orrington St., Suite 1120, Evanston, IL 60201. Telephone: (847) 570-8888. Fax: (847) 570-3290. E-mail: dloveland@enh.org.

Tim Clontz, Executive Vice President, Moses Cone Health System, 1200 N. Elm St., Greensboro, NC 27401-1020. Telephone: (336) 315-1460. E-mail: tim.clontz@mosescone.com.