Same-Day Surgery Manager

Want a better February? Follow these 10 tips

By Stephen W. Earnhart, MS
Earnhart & Associates
Austin, TX

What a wonderful month this is: love, candy, and roses! You just have to love February regardless of your situation or what is happening in the world.

Another reason I like February is because business picks up again. Not much happens from Thanksgiving until the middle of January, and then most of us are still in a carb coma until February. By February, most of the silly resolutions have been abandoned, and it is back to our old lifestyles. Gotta love February.

Interesting stuff going on in our industry, and virtually none of it has any impact on the day-to-day running of the surgical schedule. Zilch! It is so difficult not to get distracted by the minutia going on around us, but resist and keep you head focused on today.

Over the past six weeks, I have met with four hospital CEOs, two large healthcare insurance providers, 15 or 20 surgeons, and about 50 staff members of hospital outpatient departments and ambulatory surgery centers. Never once did the topic of health care reform come up. Everyone is centered on what can be done at the individual level and how to deal with the decreased elective cases. Here are some tips that you can use this month:

1. Forget the economy. Focus on what is happening at your local level.

2. Seriously consider augmenting your marketing staff to bring in new surgeons and cases. Marketing is the first to get cut in bad times, but it is also one of your more important weapons in the battle.

3. Send your top 10 surgeons their preference cards for their most common procedures after you have priced each item on it. Never mind. Don't send it; just put it in their mail slot with charts to be signed. It will be quicker. Follow up on it with them.

4. Review your anesthesia costs with whoever is in charge of anesthesia at your location. You will be shocked at what anesthesia drugs are costing now. Letting them know you are aware of those costs should help make them aware of it as well. Not a whole lot of options there.

5. Seriously consider cutting back your days of operations.I suggested this to a surgeon just last week, and I thought he was going to slice me. However, the reality is that until volume picks up, it is often better to cut hours of operations into fewer days. You can preserve your full time staff (for the most part) by cutting back on per diem staff and extending hours to 10 hours a day for four days per week.

6. The reality is that outsourcing really can be less expensive than doing it in house. Make of list of those services you could outsource, and do the math. You might be surprised at the deals that companies are making today. (See stories on outsourcing human resources, SDS, July 2007, and stories on outsourcing coding, billing, and collections, SDS, July and August 2004.)

7. February is a great month to make changes. Change around your duties to your staff. Reassign infection control, continuous quality improvement, etc. to other staff members. We all get lax doing the same thing day in and day out. Change it up a bit.

8. Audit yourself. Have a staff member make sure that you are collecting all the charges you are entitled to by standing in the operating room and checking off everything that is a charge item. I can bet you are missing at least 10% of your potential charges.

9. Increase time frequency of your staff meetings. I have had the pleasure of sitting in on a number of staff meetings across the country over the past couple of months. With the exception of the early morning meetings (I don't do "early" anymore), I have been impressed by the involvement of the staff and the detail they get into at these meetings. A good agenda is key to a good meeting.

10. Avoid having 10 items on a list. Too David Letterman.

I hope the above make a difference. It is so easy for all of us to get discouraged by what we see and hear. I know some centers and hospitals have been struggling with cutbacks and hourly reductions. Things are getting better.

Remember: February is love, candy, and roses. I hope you are on the receiving end of at least two of them. [Earnhart & Associates is a consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery development and management. Contact Earnhart at 13492 Research Blvd., Suite 120-258, Austin, TX 78750-2254. E-mail: Web: Tweet address: Earnhart_EAI.]