As Election Day 2012 continues to draw nearer, questions about the best ways to ensure affordable, accessible health care for all Americans are making headline news and consuming much of the national political debate. As concepts like “value-based purchasing” and “pay-for-performance” continue to be raised, it is becoming increasingly clear that one area where Americans aren’t willing to compromise is in the quality of the health care services they receive.

As I have said in this column before, ensuring the highest quality experience possible for every patient has been a priority for the ambulatory surgery center (ASC) community since its earliest days. In the short history of ASCs, which still barely exceeds 40 years, there are many outstanding examples of ways ASCs and ASC professionals have demonstrated this commitment to quality care. Some of these include the following:

  • As it has in the past, ASCA continues to assist ASCs in meeting quality standards and raising the bar ever higher. A few of the ways it accomplishes those goals is by providing nationally available educational programs and information resources, advocating on behalf of ASCs in state and national venues and collaborating with others in the US health system who share ASCs’ commitment to quality care.
  • In addition to the state andnational licensing and certification requirements that ASCs meet, more than 68% of ASCs have voluntarily sought and obtained accreditation from one of the four national ASC accrediting bodies.
  • In 2002, the ASC community introduced the CASC (Certified Administrator Surgery Center) credentialing program to recognize mastery of the unique skill set and knowledge ASC administrators need to manage their ASCs effectively. Today, more than 600 individuals hold that credential.
  • In 2006, leaders in the ASC community voluntarily came together to form the ASC Quality Collaboration—an organization committed to identifying measures pertaining to the quality of health care that ASCs provide and to collecting data from ASCs around the country that can be used to ensure high-quality outcomes.
  • ASCs recently became the only surgical care providers in the country to undergo inspections using a high-level, state-of-the-art survey tool developed in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and aimed at ensuring the highest standards of infection prevention.
  • ASCs across the country have long participated voluntarily in various benchmarking projects that examine outcomes data and best practices. Frequently, the data they collect and review in these programs contributes to quality assessment and improvement projects that ASC professionals undertake inside their individual facilities.
  • About a quarter of all ASCs are already voluntarily reporting quality data. These reports are publicly available on various state and national web sites, including the ASC Quality Collaboration site.

The most recent development related to quality in the ASC community begins this year when Medicare-certified ASCs will begin participating in a national ASC quality reporting program coordinated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The ASC community has supported a national quality reporting program of this kind since 2006 and is looking forward to an opportunity to begin to demonstrate the high-quality care that ASCs provide through an impartial, third-party data collection and reporting process.

As with any new initiative of this scope and size, ASC staff who will be participating are likely to have questions about the logistics involved. ASCA is developing and disseminating a comprehensive set of resources to help guide the ASC community in this effort. Some that ASCs across the country will be able to use in their own facilities include:

  • Resources that will be posted on ASCA’s web site(www ascassociation.org),
  • Recordings of quality reporting presentations made at ASCA’s recent annual meeting (now available online at dcprovidersonline.com/asc),
  • Two free webinars (for information, go to ascassociation.org/ASCA/ EducationEvents/Webinars); and
  • Articles in ASCA’s magazine, ASC Focus (only ASCA members and subscribers receive print copies of the magazine and access to the online version, but ASCA will be making the information from the quality reporting articles that we publish available publicly on our web site).

During the year, ASCA will also be mailing some of the quality reporting resources we develop directly to all Medicare-certified ASCs and emailing even more information to ASCA members and other ASC professionals who have given us their email addresses. If you are interested in receiving those notices and do not currently receive ASCA’s weekly news releases, please send your email address, and a note indicating that you are interested in receiving more information about ASC quality reporting, to ASC@ascassociation.org.

As always, ASC professionals are invited to contact ASCA’s Member Services Team (703.836.8808 or ASC@ascassociation.org) for assistance.

At the same time that the ASC community will be continuing to manage and fine tune the many quality-related programs we already have in place, we are looking to this new national program as a unique opportunity for ASCs. If you work in or with an ASC and ASCA can help you participate in this program in some way, please call on us.

WILLIAM PRENTICE is the chief executive officer of the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about the association, call (703)836-8808 or go to www.ascassociation.org.