FEATURE Create Awareness of Your ASC’s High-Quality Care

The CEO of a company that works with surgery centers shares his thoughts

BridgeHealth, headquartered in Denver, Colorado, contracts with providers for bundled case rates. It has negotiated more than 2,800 bundles and assisted more than 15,000 patients in traveling for their healthcare in nine years. Currently, the company works with 70 ASCs across the US. Mark Stadler, chief executive officer, talks about the company’s Alaska project.

Q Tell me about BridgeHealth’s Alaska project.

Mark Stadler (MS): Due to the unique market in Alaska and the state’s geographic location, travel for healthcare is a cultural norm for many Alaskans. In 2018, BridgeHealth completed 200 surgeries for its Alaska-based plan members. Across our book of business, approximately 60 percent of our surgeries were performed in ASCs. Our clients in Alaska include a mix of large, self-insured commercial and labor employer groups representing more than 45,000 employees. Our largest contract covers 27,000 primary members.

Q Why Alaska?

MS: BridgeHealth has been serving members in Alaska since 2007. Our Alaskan members recognize that the cost of healthcare is not sustainable and that this cost is not always commensurate with quality. This has created an interest in traveling outside of Alaska to address high-cost, non- emergent surgeries, such as hip replacements. We connect our clients’ employees and dependents with the best surgical care in the country. Not only do they experience the improved outcomes and decreased likelihood of complications that come with quality care, they also receive the highest level of personalized support throughout the pre- and post-surgery process. ASCs are an integral part of our business model.

Q What advice do you have for ASCs interested in starting a medical tourism program?

MS: Over the past 10 years, BridgeHealth has learned how to engage members through creative and direct marketing campaigns. We have found that members are not averse to traveling for higher-quality, lower-cost medical care. The biggest barrier is awareness. Once they are aware of their options and the advantages, the barriers come down. ASCs, typically, are busy serving their own communities and may not be marketing to patients outside their area. It may be a good idea for them to find a partner who will engage prospective patients and make them aware of the excellent options that reside in ASCs.

Looking Ahead With the rising costs of healthcare and with more and more success stories of medical tourism working, there is a good chance that it could grow in the ASC setting, Stine says.

The question is whether patients are willing to travel outside their “bubble” for surgery, Connolly says. “The answer depends on several fac- tors, including the intended advan- tages, the length of travel necessary to achieve one or more of the perceived advantages, the cost of the travel, the patient’s overall health, the type of sur- gery needed, and, of course, how soon the patient will be able to travel home after their surgery.” That said, as long as patients and/or self-insured employ- ers continue to recognize the value of having surgery in the most advanta- geous location, medical tourism will play a stronger role within the ASC industry, he says.

While international medical tour- ism might be receiving attention these days, patients and/or the self-insured employers are more often recogniz- ing they don’t have to leave the US to secure more affordable, high-quality surgery, Connolly says. “Likewise, they are learning that patients may not even have to cross state lines to capitalize on the value-add. In many instances, travel from one city to another within a few hours’ drive can make a big difference in the overall spend.” ASCs are in a unique position to

take advantage of this growing oppor- tunity, Stadler concludes. “Employers are looking for more ways to provide high-quality healthcare at lower prices and provide the best patient healthcare experience. With a surgery benefits program, employees can access high- quality healthcare at much lower out- of-pocket costs than with their tradi- tional insurance.”


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