Monthly Archives

August 2018

Launching an ASC Staff Certification Program

Launching an ASC Staff Certification Program

By | ASC Management, Leadership | No Comments

When members of your staff indicate they want to get better at their jobs, your response is probably enthusiastic support. After all, a more competent, skilled staff is better prepared to achieve improved clinical and financial results and higher patient and surgeon satisfaction. These are some of the reasons ASCs allocate time and resources to staff training and in-service education. They are also compelling reasons for developing a program that supports ASC staff certification.

ASC Staff Certification Program Components

Here are some of the essential components to address when developing your ASC staff certification program guidelines.

Eligibility

Determine certification program eligibility. Is the program limited to full-time employees or are part-time employees also eligible to participate? Are staff required to work at your ASC for a specific amount of time (e.g., one year) before they are eligible for the program? Will you restrict participation to employees in good-standing?

Acceptable Certifications

Specify which certifications your program will cover – preferably, those that are essential to your facility’s success. Examples of certifications you may want to include:

  • Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR)
  • Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN)
  • Certified Ambulatory PeriAnesthesia Nurse (CAPA)
  • Certified Surgical Tech (CST)
  • Certified Gastroenterology Registered Nurse (CGRN)

It’s important to permit staff to propose certifications not included in your program. You can weigh the merits and applicability of each proposal. While you may add to your original program list, consider including only those certifications awarded by nationally recognized professional organizations.

Covered Expenses

Identify which expenses are eligible for reimbursement upon successful completion of the ASC staff certification. You will likely want to cover the certification exam fee. You may want to reimburse certification renewal fees. Other expenses to consider:

  • Educational resources to support exam preparation (e.g., books, webinars, conferences)
  • Practice exams
  • Transportation to and from an exam center
  • Continuing education required to maintain the certification

Include a qualifier noting that reimbursement only applies to the portion of eligible expenses not already covered by other payment sources, such as scholarships. Put a cap on the amount of reimbursement available for a single certification and/or timeframe (e.g., annually).

Documentation

Require documentation at the beginning and end of the program. Employees seeking certification assistance should submit their application/request in writing. Following certification program completion, ensure employees provide documentation demonstrating they earned the certification. If you are covering other expenses, request itemized receipts.

Secure a Return on Your Investment

An ASC staff certification program is one way for your ASC to invest in staff. Help protect your investment by including a reimbursement qualifier in your guidelines. State how long employees are expected to remain with your surgery center following completion of, and reimbursement for, the certification program. Clearly outline the financial penalty for failing to reach this mark.

For example, you might require employees to repay 70% of their assistance if they do not stay with your ASC for one year after achieving certification. While you cannot require employees to remain at your center, financial penalties encourage them to thoughtfully consider the impact leaving prior to completion of the qualifying term will have on them and your ASC. Financial qualifiers also deter individuals not fully committed to staying with your ASC from applying to the program.

ASC Staff Certification Program Expansion

If you launch a program that is successful, consider additional ways to encourage staff members to participate. One way is to add certifications to your list. Ask staff for their recommendations. Monitor the development of new certifications, such as the recently launched Certified Ambulatory Infection Preventionist (CAIP).

Another way to expand the program is to go beyond certifications. Include courses provided through an accredited educational institution of higher learning (e.g. college, university, trade or vocational school). These offerings may attract individuals already holding certification(s) or those not interested in certification.

Here are some additional considerations if you are going to offer reimbursement for course tuition:

  • Require the primary business of the institution attended is education. Academic or college credit hours should be earned upon successful completion of the class.
  • Ensure course work is applicable to the employee’s current position or tied to a degree related to an employee’s career path with your ASC.
  • Require proof of completion, such as a transcript or grade report.
  • Determine whether to reimburse for books and other supplies mandated for course participation.

Offering reimbursement for certifications and courses is a potentially low-cost, high-reward method to improve staff performance and productivity. This investment can encourage greater staff loyalty and appreciation of leadership support. An ASC staff certification and educational course program promotes an ASC’s mission of providing compassionate, high-quality care. That’s a proposition easy to endorse!


Michaela Halcomb, Director of Operations

Quick Tips for Managing a Rural ASC

Quick Tips for Managing a Rural ASC

By | ASC Management, Leadership | No Comments

Managing a rural ambulatory surgery center (ASC) presents unique challenges. In a limited demographic region, staffing, physician recruitment, and patient access can be problematic, especially if a well-formed strategy isn’t in place.

Here are several tips to help manage a rural ASC.

Staffing

In a remote (non-urban) region, there are typically a limited number of skilled professionals available to staff your rural ASC. While professionals in the area may possess the necessary medical credentials, they may not be equipped with firsthand ASC experience. If you require ASC experience as a minimum qualification, you will further limit your applicant pool. Therefore, it’s best to shift your focus to hiring qualified, motivated individuals who are willing to put in the time and effort necessary to achieve competency in the surgery center arena. Be prepared to spend adequate time onboarding and introducing new employees to the ASC model. It differs significantly from the hospital model where available staff may have gained much of their previous experience. A challenge faced by employees new to the ASC model is learning to perform multiple duties they were not likely required to complete in the hospital setting. Patience, consistent check-ins, and open communication with the preceptor are key in getting them up to speed.

Physician Recruitment

Physician recruitment can also be challenging for a rural ASC. Typically, there is only one hospital which employs physicians in the area. The ASC will either need to have a transfer agreement with that hospital or the physicians providing surgical and procedural services will need to have privileges at the local hospital.

If the hospital is not inclined to provide a transfer agreement to the ASC, physicians who only perform outreach medical services in the area may find obtaining medical staff privileges at the hospital burdensome. Because these physicians are not providing services to the rural community daily, they may be unable to meet the hospital’s case threshold requirements.

Take time to understand physicians’ relationships with the hospital prior to onboarding them to your ASC. In turn, ensure physicians you are recruiting to the ASC understand the steps they may have to take to secure the necessary relationship with the local hospital.

Patients

Patient access is limited in a rural area. Some patients may travel for an hour or more to receive medical services. Robust patient scheduling, admission, and discharge criteria are necessary to ensure optimal patient experience. Train your staff to ask your patients the right questions. Nursing staff need to supply patients with detailed post-operative instructions, as well as travel instructions to make sure patients are comfortable on their trip home.

Some patients may require longer recovery times to adequately prepare them for their extended post-op travel. Understanding these needs up front, will save your staff, physicians, and patients valuable time post-surgery. Provide patient satisfaction surveys, monitor the responses, and implement operational changes to enhance customer service.

The challenges encountered in running a rural ASC are different than those you may face in a surgery center located in a metropolitan area. Devise a strategy that considers staff, patients, and physicians. Focus on building and maintaining a high functioning ASC team. Create relationships that extend beyond the rural community. Focusing on these efforts will help you run a more successful rural ASC with the limited market and resources available.


Kelli McMahan, Regional VP of Operations

ASCs: Marketing for Your Small Businesses

ASCs: Marketing for Your Small Business

By | ASC Management, Leadership | No Comments

Most businesses understand some type of marketing is imperative to compete in today’s economy. Some businesses, especially small businesses like ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), shy away from venturing into new digital platforms due to lack of time, financial resources, or both. However, there are strategic steps small businesses can take to engage in time- and cost-effective digital marketing initiatives.

First, identify your target audience. Begin by collecting appropriate and available customer data, such as age, gender, household income, etc. Ensure the data collected adheres to guidelines established under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Next, identify your marketing goal – the ultimate action you want your customers to take. Because surgery centers do not sell products online, an example of a marketing goal might be to increase the ASC’s web page views.

Now, identify the best platform to engage your patients. Then track the results. This is typically where small businesses need guidance. Although most platforms mentioned below are “free,” they will cost you hours in content creation and maintenance. And, if not managed properly, your customer engagement initiative could fail.[1] However, our goal is to provide tips that boost your confidence, not instill fear!

Let’s start with the basics: managing your ASC’s online profiles (e.g., Google, Yelp, Healthgrades). A 2017 consumer report indicated 97% of consumers use the internet to find a local business and 85% of these consumers trust an online review as much as personal recommendations.[2] The expectation for business to consumer interaction is also high, with nearly 52% of customers expecting a response in seven days or less, especially if the review is negative.[3] Therefore, proactively managing patient reviews and capitalizing on positive patient experience is vital. Checking on these platforms at least once a week will help you stay on top of reviews and show your customers you are listening.

Once your profiles are properly created and managed, look at other free social platforms with a creative eye. Because social media is very interactive, it takes time and dedication to maintain. YouTube can be a great platform to showcase your brand by posting “how-to” videos that display industry expertise. Healthcare entities have used this platform to provide pre/post-operative educational videos for patients, eliminating webinars or in-person classes. Small businesses can also collaborate with their partners. For example, consider working with a device company to produce medical equipment demonstrations or provide patient education with affiliated hospitals.

Most people research medical information online before consulting with a provider. This could be a path that leads information seekers to your service. Instagram is the third largest social media platform. It is estimated to have 700 million active users each month.[4] The age group utilizing it is also diverse, with 18% of users in the 50-64 age group.[5] However, the best way to engage with your audience is to have them do the marketing for you. Social media reviews are the digital equivalent to the good old word-of-mouth. Obtaining referrals from a trusted source goes a long way.

If you are inspired to explore the possibilities of a social media business account, ensure you have proper disclaimers and/or permissions to post customer reviews. The last thing your ASC needs is a lawsuit triggered by a poorly managed marketing initiative.[6]

Marketing automation tools such as GetResponse, Emma, and Marketo are great ways to follow up on successful patient engagement. Not all marketing automation tools are free, but they can help small businesses know when a lead lands on their website, requests information, and participates in other engagement behaviors. The data provided can be used for strategic follow-up through email, short messaging service (SMS), or direct mailers.

Marketing automation may not be for you just yet, but that doesn’t mean your business can’t gather data on marketing efforts. Ensure all marketing campaigns have a call to action that is trackable. Although this is simple advice, many small businesses forget about post-impression behavior tracking. This is voluntary forfeiture of customer data that could benefit your future marketing efforts. The adage, “if it can’t be measured, it can’t be improved,” is applicable here.

In summary, marketing should not be a shot in the dark. Increase your chances of hitting your target by incorporating marketing into your business’s strategic plan. In today’s fast-paced, noisy, and competitive market, small businesses do not have the luxury of bypassing customer engagement and loyalty. Customer engagement should be focused, analyzed, and personalized for the best long-term results.


Alice Beech, Physician Liaison


[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnrampton/2014/04/22/why-most-social-media-strategies-fail/#648185f43a9b

[2] https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey

[3] https://www.reviewtrackers.com/customers-expect-responses-negative-reviews

[4] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/instagram-fastest-growing-social-media-platform-2018-sonila-begu

[5] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/instagram-fastest-growing-social-media-platform-2018-sonila-begu

[6] https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/compliance-enforcement/agreements/complete-pt/index.html

ASC Policies, Procedures, and Protocols, Oh My!

ASC Policies, Procedures, and Protocols, Oh My!

By | ASC Management, Leadership | No Comments

Policies, procedures, and protocols are the lifeblood of an ASC’s operations. These critical guidelines should be clear, concise, and readily accessible to members of the workforce. Sometimes, despite the importance of these standards, locating a comprehensive listing of policies, procedures, and protocols is not easy. When staff members are unable to easily locate a policy for the guidance they need to complete their job duties, they are hampered in their mission to provide efficient and effective service to patients. Frustration arises when time is wasted working through inefficient processes. And, in a surgery center’s fast-paced environment, timeliness is critical to efficiency.

Policies and procedures are written to provide clear and concise context, which in turn promotes consistent performance across teams. Written policies are the guideposts which represent evidence-based practices to be applied in daily functions. When team members cannot locate a policy, mistakes can happen, and clinical care can falter.

The best policies and procedures are well-researched, carefully crafted documents that contain pertinent references. They should also be stripped of bulky words, keeping content current, consistent, and concise. No matter how well written the policy, it is meaningless if it is never read and applied to practice.

How do you know if your staff is knowledgeable of your surgery center’s policies and procedures?

If your staff asks questions which are addressed in the policies and procedures manual, that can be an indicator that they are unfamiliar with your ASC policies and procedures. For example, do they ask, “What policy addresses cleaning point of care devices between patient use?” or “How often must relative humidity be monitored?” These questions indicate your staff either do not know best practices, or your ASC process, or they are unsure where to locate the information.

To address a lack of awareness of policies and procedures, begin by creating open dialogue with your staff. During this process, you may uncover a need for retraining or identify areas in your onboarding process that are insufficient. On the other hand, if your staff reveals competency in the areas where there were questions and they are solely looking for your center’s specific policy, take a step back to review the accessibility of your policies and procedures and determine if they are user friendly. There may be many reasons why staff members do not establish and maintain policy knowledge with ease; communicate with them to find out why.

Are Policies, Procedures, and Protocols Accessible?

Let’s explore the accessibility factor by looking at the history of policies and procedures. In the past, policies and procedures were paper based – typically housed in several large three ring binders. Often, these policy notebooks were strategically placed in the confines of a manager’s office – the person most often responsible for upkeep of written policies. In this model, the binders are not immediately available to the bedside nurse who may benefit greatly if they were in a more convenient, accessible location.

The communication breakdown here can be explained by competing priorities. A manager of a busy ASC is often overwhelmed by the demands of the day. The ongoing task of refreshing policies quickly can easily slip to a lower priority.

A practicing nurse knows to wipe down the gurney and put clean sheets on the bed before the next patient uses it. He or she did not need to read a policy to know this. However, does this same nurse know why only FDA approved disinfectant is used? How much dwell time is needed to kill microorganisms? Which point of care devices need to be cleaned? The answers to these infection prevention practices are critical to current infection control standards and are addressed in written policy. When the policy is read and executed, best practice is displayed by the entire team.

Poor practice, ineffective communication, and inadequate onboarding occur when the cleaning process is vocalized but not provided in written form during the orientation of a new hire. The orientee does their best to repeat what is heard and observed – but a breakdown in the consistency of the function can easily occur. If the employee does not receive enough guidance or resources, he or she may resort to performing the task in the way he or she knows how, relying on previous experience or observations of others. That performance might not adhere to the latest best practices. Alternatively, proper infection control processes are easily achieved as a repeatable task with initial and continuous education resources available.

Sustainable solutions to sharing protocols, policies, and procedures

As ASC leaders, our responsibilities include consistent, reliable management of information. Effective policies contain information that can be easily shared with members of the workforce. Leaders need sustainable solutions that improve how we share policies with staff members.

Here are four goals to consider:

  • Policies are readily available to end users.
  • Policies are accurate and current.
  • Policies are protected from erroneous editing.
  • Policy updates are communicated clearly and in a timely manner to appropriate personnel.

To select a communication platform designed to achieve these goals and secure utilization among all team members, consider the following questions:

  • Does the platform address your identified goals?
  • Can the facility afford the platform?
  • What training is required to launch and implement the platform?
  • What will be gained from using this platform?
  • How will leadership appropriately administer change management?

Not every ASC will be able to adopt the same method, hence the importance of identifying your own goals. Once goals are established, develop leading questions to identify the best tool or process for your surgery center presently and in the foreseeable future.

Is there a better way?

Pinnacle III’s managed facilities recently adopted a technology-based policy management system. This strategic move allows our ASCs to immediately gain access to our surgery center policy library. Placing a clickable icon on every workstation provides employees immediate access to policies. System administration ensures accurate and current content material, maintaining intellectual ownership. To protect policies from incidental tampering, all editing occurs via permissions and a prescribed work flow process.

To facilitate the change management process, staff training was provided upon implementation. Periodic in-services were scheduled following initial implementation. To progress staff adoption, a series of quizzes were prepared for personnel affording them opportunities to practice locating and reading various policies on the platform.

Implementation of this software has decreased employee frustration with inability to locate policies. The software provides a more efficient way to maintain and update policies. Our leadership team is more confident members of the workforce are following policies. This has enhanced the workforce’s ability to achieve compliance to practice standards and defined business operations. The leadership team’s repetitive message, “Let’s view the policy!” and “Did you read the policy?” makes consistency probable.

A technology-based platform may not be the answer for your ASC. However, it is important to understand the pain points and efficiency issues that occur in your center. These critical components are directly tied to patient care. No matter what your solution, make sure you are addressing your policy, procedure, and protocol goals. After all, the best policy ever written is the policy which is accessed, read, and applied to daily practice!


Jean Day, Director, Clinical Education