Same-Day Surgery Manager

Trends I learned about at association meetings

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

This has been a grand month so far. I had the pleasure of speaking at the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA) meeting in Orlando in May and The Gulf States ASC Conference in Biloxi in June. I reacquainted with old friends and made new ones, and I gathered many months of ideas for my column.

The one thing that impressed me more than anything at these meetings was that as an industry, we are marching forward and are not daunted by the economic woes around us. Of course, being in healthcare and not real estate helps, but still, I gathered an upbeat mood from surgery center owners, companies, hospital department heads, surgeons, techs, and vendors. It was refreshing to witness. We should all feel good about our career choice! Here is my take on what I observed:

1. Surgeons are investing in their future.Granted, some physicians are becoming employees of large healthcare systems, but I see that as positive as not everyone is an entrepreneur and there is comfort in the pack for those individuals. But this trend helps to clear the vision for others and does carve out a larger niche for surgeons who wish to pursue a business venture (i.e. their own surgery center) combined with professional satisfaction and growth.

2. More and more hospitals are partnering with surgeons. Again, some are hiring them as employees, but mostly they are partnering in surgery center projects. This is heartening as it not only brings more business to the industry, but it also validates it. Not that we need it, of course.

3. A lot of people and companies are looking to buy surgery centers. According to Healthcare Appraisers, 52% of the health care companies plan to buy surgery centers this year. Could you be one of them? Better smile at strangers walking through your center. You never know!

4. The "giveaways" (the little trinkets on their tables) at the vendor's booths are cheap and paltry. COME ON! We are professionals spending real money here. Cough up the good stuff if you want us to stop at your table!

5. Seemingly, as a group, we are getting older. Are there going to be enough new nurses to replace us in the next 10 years? I don't think so.

6. There were many private meetings going on all around me involving business-type people (they wore suits) with surgeons (they wore scrubs, so they would be easy to spot in their casual indifference) discussing all manner of things that could only be good for all of us.

7. It appears, according to all the vendors present, that many of us are outsourcing services from our facilities. And, based upon all the equipment vendors, we are breaking a lot of our stuff!

All in all, it was great. I know that many of you that read this don't always have the opportunity to go to these meetings. It's such a shame and a missed opportunity for you. You need to let your department head or supervisor know your desire to attend. You will come away like I did: rejuvenated, inspired, and networked!

You also need to get involved in your organization, whatever it might be, because it does make a difference. For example, almost every state has a hospital and surgery center association. Google yours to find the contact info. Surgery centers also can go to http://ascassociation.org/about/state to find their state associations.

I received my first real break in this industry by attending a conference years ago. I was so inspired by the speakers that I signed up to speak at the following year's conference (completely forgetting about my fear of public speaking at the time), and that was the start of what I do now. Whether you work in a surgery center, a hospital outpatient department, or a surgeon's office, the networking and experience is well worth your time! [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: searnhart@earnhart.com. Web: www.earnhart.com. Twitter: @SurgeryInc.]