I received an overwhelming response from last month’s column about matching numbers regarding profit and loss statements, insurance contracts, and supply costs. Many readers requested even more information about putting everyone on the same page and ensuring financial success, which follows below:

Daily Huddles. For new administrative and operational staff, it is important to gather the senior management team daily to review the upcoming schedule, assignments, and any issues from the day before. At the very least, this team should include the administrator, nurse manager, OR director, PACU, and medical director. Meetings should be comprehensive but last no longer than 15 minutes. Think of it as a “time out” for management. So many problems can be avoided pre-emptively by adhering to this simple act of communication. I would encourage certain staff members to attend some of these sessions occasionally so they can understand how the day is planned and how they can contribute. Once you begin holding these huddles, you will be amazed at how you survived without them. And, obviously, this does not replace frequent staff meetings.

Staff Assessment. We see more ASCs using staffing agencies to fill staffing gaps. While there are fine people working for these companies, such agencies are expensive. Using them for more than just an emergency can be counterproductive to most budgets and surgeon relationships. A better option is to increase your own team of per-diem, part-time staff. You will need to use them frequently so they can understand your culture and how you operate. Allow your surgeons to learn who these staffers are by name so the surgeons won’t complain about new faces in their room. Surgeons complain about staff turnover frequently, equating new faces to just that. When possible, replace outgoing full-time staff with several part-time personnel to augment your pool.

Overtime. A properly managed surgery center should have zero overtime. Hospitals get a pass because their schedules vary daily (and often hourly), which makes the schedules unpredictable. ASCs do not have that excuse.

Budgeting and Planning. If we were running diet centers or gyms, we would know that we need to increase marketing and staffing for the first of each year when the public decides they need to lose weight and exercise. We do know that our surgical facilities are busier in November and December, as many of our patients have met their insurance deductible. But how many of us plan the rest of the year? Failure to poll your surgeons about their vacation and time-off plans results in frequent staffing problems. You might be overstaffed and see fewer patients than expected because of poor planning. If it is too difficult to get this information from the surgeon, then call their office and ask them when he or she is going to be away.

Work Smarter, Not Harder. There are many service companies that offer solutions to issues that save us time and money in areas in which we do not excel and that could use staff resources unnecessarily. These are areas like scanning and documenting charts and records, verifying patient insurance and deductibles, incorporating the patients’ medical records, pre- and post-op phone calls, website updates and maintenance, benchmarks, mock certification surveys, and so many other useful services that are remarkably inexpensive when you hire experts to handle them for you. We work with all these companies and are impressed with their knowledge and services. You owe it to yourself and your facility to explore the options available to all of us now.

Your Bottom Line. Working together, smarter, and educated as a team can make you and your associates successful. There are three things that I require of our facilities and clients:

  1. Provide a safe environment for your patients, your staff, and your visitors;
  2. Ensure your patients and your staff experience a positive outcome;
  3. Be increasingly profitable to fund 1 & 2.

Earnhart & Associates is a consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery development and management. Earnhart & Associates can be reached at 5114 Balcones Woods Drive, Suite 307-203, Austin, TX 78759. Phone: (512) 297-7575. Fax: (512) 233-2979. Email: searnhart@earnhart.com Web: www.earnhart.com.