ASCs and surgical facilities were already facing a variety of challenges brought about by increased patient financial responsibility and by a changing reimbursement landscape, but COVID-19 has either brought new challenges or magnified existing ones.

The challenges brought about by the pandemic have caused surgery centers to accelerate needed changes to improve different areas in their revenue cycle operations.

For surgery centers, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could linger long after the crisis is contained. Here are 3 ways to reinvent your facility to come out from this downturn:

1. Staffing
Several surgery centers have laid off and furloughed staff to offset financial losses from elective case bans in March. Now that elective surgeries are ramping back up again, surgery centers will have to grapple with having sufficient staff with the surge of elective cases which were put off.

Staffing can represent 40 percent of an ASC’s budget, so centers should plan staffing well, by identifying who would likely return to work and when to bring back such furloughed staff.

A couple of challenges have surfaced due to COVID-19:

• Recruiting talent during this transitional period may prove difficult and come at a higher cost than budgeted.
• Staff may be reluctant to come back from furlough
• Finding talented staff members willing and able to work flexible hours during your ramp-up period may be more difficult than expected.
• Due to the increased demand for qualified talent, salaries are likely to be appreciably higher than those prior to the -pandemic.

Here’s some things your surgical facility can do:

• Maintain communication channels with furloughed staff and keep them informed about your center’s ability to recruit them back and steps your center is taking to protect staff.
• Consider having some staff float among locations, take on new tasks, or simply work part-time until full-time options become available.
• Formally screen staff when they are asked to take on new responsibilities and be transparent about additional requirements.
• Outsourcing revenue cycle management allows you to access experienced staff for your patient billing needs.

2. Patient Payments
According to a recent CNBC survey, one-fourth of Americans have either lost their job or taken a pay cut. That means more than 30 percent of Americans may be at risk of losing coverage under employer insurance plans.
During these times, helping patients pay and choose the best and most convenient path for them is key to boosting collections.

Here’s some things your ASC can do:

• Provide payment plans with zero interest and financing options for low-income or uninsured patients with higher out-of-pocket responsibilities.
• Offer contactless solutions to communicate with patients and collect payments like text-to-pay and online patient portals.
• Consider getting trained patient financial advocates to walk patients through their financial options including sensible payment plans, responsible funding options, and compliant charity care programs.

3. Operations and Patient Care Areas
Patients also now prefer surgery to be done at ASCs so that they don’t need to go into the hospital to stay overnight. Patients are seeking safer locations for their surgical care, which is pushing them away from hospitals and toward ASCs.

With an estimated 4 million elective surgeries cancelled in the US during the height of the pandemic, there is a large backlog awaiting rescheduling, which is also forcing a delay in scheduling new procedures.

Third-party payers are also increasingly directing surgical cases toward outpatient facilities due to lower infection risk, improved efficiency, and reduced costs.

Hence, surgery center’s caseloads are expected to transform quickly from low to high volume. The caseload increase is becoming the new normal for ASCs.

Here’s some things your facility can do:

• Consider the possibility of instituting extended hours of operation (evenings and weekends)
• Allot more space for clinical use during caseload ramp-up periods to capture the volume of cases available to your center.
• Build larger patient care areas to respond to new safety needs by outsourcing business office functions such as revenue cycle management or patient billing services.

In all these 3 key areas, an experienced surgical RCM company could be really helpful as an extension of your business office and help your surgery center focus on providing excellent care.

About Mnet Health

Mnet Health is the premier revenue cycle management and technology provider in the surgical industry. We provide custom patient-pay solutions to surgical hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. As of 2020, Mnet Health partners with over 700 surgical facilities nationwide and is the preferred vendor of both United Surgical Partners International (USPI) and Surgical Care Affiliates (SCA) – both directly with and in support of centralized billing offices. Mnet’s custom brand, PaySUITE, is a white-labeled payment technology platform that helps surgical facilities and their providers grow their business by helping patients pay.

We believe every patient deserves a helpful, transparent, easy to navigate financial experience in healthcare.

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