By Bill Prentice
As part of our ongoing commitment to putting patients first, ASCA and ASCs across the country are involved in a wide range of projects aimed at improving the patient experience in ASCs.
One hot-button topic we have turned new attention to recently is helping our patients avoid surprise medical bills. Although surprise bills are most often tied to emergency medical care, when patients cannot choose their care provider, anytime a patient gets care in any medical facility and a provider who is outside the patient’s insurance network helps deliver some part of that care, the potential for a surprise medical bill exists.
From coast to coast, patients are fed up with these unexpected invoices, which can be for substantial amounts that create significant hardship for families. In response to constituent complaints, members of Congress have taken up this cause, proposing a diverse set of legislative fixes. Unfortunately, most of those proposals are still winding their way through the rule-making process.
Recognizing that ASCs don’t need complicated legislation or regulatory policy to do the right thing by their patients, ASCA is supporting its members’ efforts to help their patients avoid surprise medical bills by supplying a reminder of the steps ASCs and patients can take to eliminate these bills. One step it emphasizes is encouraging patients to call their insurance provider to determine if all the health professionals who will provide their care at the ASC are in or out of the insurer’s network. While we recognize that most ASCs already have systems in place to help their patients understand the full costs of their care, this added reminder could help some ASCs improve even more patients’ lives in this important way.
On another front, April 1 marks the opening of the one-month reporting window for the first quarter of ASCA’s 2020 Clinical and Operational Benchmarking program. This program is no longer new, but every ASC that participates changes the experience every other ASC in the program has. The more data ASCs contribute to this program, the more valuable the survey reports become.
ASC management experts say benchmarking can lead to improvements in everything from staffing matrices and operating room turnover times to billing practices and an ASC’s bottom line. As these operational elements improve inside an ASC, so does the patient experience. To help ASCs use benchmarking as effectively as possible, ASCA is working now on a new benchmarking guide that will walk users through the steps involved.
Of course, when it comes to best practices in patient safety, quality of care and customer service in ASCs, many ASC professionals have come to rely on ASCA’s annual conferences. Between May 13 and May 16 of this year, ASCA will conduct the ASCA 2020 Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida. This meeting features in-depth regulatory compliance advice, extensive networking opportunities and hundreds of exhibitors who will be showcasing products and services that target the special needs of ASCs. This meeting will also deliver the information and expert advice ASCs need to be able to provide the safest, highest quality care to their patients and a personalized, caring experience that their patients will talk about for years to come.
At ASCA 2020, new ASC staff can learn what they need to perform their jobs and how to fit best into their new environment. More experienced administrators and staff will have multiple opportunities to connect with their colleagues and tap into their real-world experiences to find new ways of enhancing all the services their own facility provides. Of course, nursing contact hours, administrator education units (AEUs) and infection prevention contact hours (IPCHs) will be available.
Another resource coming soon from ASCA is a new Culture of Safety Survey that ASCs will be able to use to evaluate their internal operations and staff relationships and identify areas where improvements can be made. ASCA will then help its members get resources they can use to make the improvements they want to make. The patient experience of care in the ASC setting is so closely aligned with the way patients interact with the ASC’s staff that any improvements in an ASC’s culture are likely to quickly translate to an improved experience for patients.
Of course, at the same time ASCA is working with the ASC community to improve the patient experience, the association continues to work to support ASCs on many other fronts. For example, we continue to talk to Medicare officials about improvements needed in the program’s ASC payment system, to reach out to the media to promote a better understanding of the services and top-quality care ASCs provide and to work with others in the health care community in the pursuit of more meaningful and more useful health care quality reporting across providers.
For more information on any of these programs to visit ASCA’s website (www.ascassociation.org). If the information you need is not yet available there, please call us (703.836.8808) or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.