3 survival tips for smaller centers

The same-day surgery industry's continuing growth is a double-edged sword for smaller and independent outpatient centers because it means greater competition, particularly from chains. However, they can increase their odds of survival by following a few guidelines. Barbara Smith, administrator of Frederick (MD) Surgical Center, and Marjorie Blouin, RN, director of surgical services, suggest the following:

1. Offer new surgeries. "People should be branching out a little bit more," Smith advises.

For example, ophthalmology surgical centers still are the top specialty surgical centers, with about 27% of the specialty surgical industry's market in 1996, according to SMG Marketing Group in Chicago. "But it's really hard to make a good profit if you're strictly an ophthalmology center," Smith says. Such centers should start bringing in a broader base, particularly considering the future impact of ambulatory payment classifications (APCs), she says.

Certain surgeries will be reimbursed in a less advantageous way under the APC system. So if a center relied entirely on one of these types of surgeries, it could find it more difficult to make a profit, Smith explains.

2. Become accredited. "It's important that centers are delivering the highest quality of care to the community, and accreditation is a way to ensure that quality is maintained," Blouin says.

Surgery centers may be accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, and the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care in Skokie, IL.

3. Attend health care seminars. Smith recommends outpatient facility directors and reimbursement managers attend seminars on APCs, cost containment, coding, and other issues.

"You need to educate yourself, and gone is the day when you could just rely on reading articles and hoping you would capture everything you need to know," she says. "You need to get out there and take the opportunity to continue your education."