Benchmarking Pro Tips Focus on key metrics, take action based on your results BY ROBERT KURTZ


verlooking critical benchmarks can cause service quality to falter,

physicians to become disgruntled and patients to be unhappy, says Nan Finch, CASC, president of Diverse Health Consulting in Austin, Texas. “Using benchmarking to help keep your eye on the ball is paramount to running a safe, successful and profitable center.” Rather than trying to perform

well against the same benchmarks, Finch advises ASCs to identify fail- ings and areas of concern to measure. As an example, she says, ASCs might be struggling with operating room turnover time now. “During the pan- demic, induction and extubation have become more time-consuming. There is a good opportunity to measure your actual turnover time from when the surgery is completed to the beginning of the next surgery. Do you know how allowing three air exchanges between extubation and room cleaning has affected your service? Benchmarking will tell you.”

Brandon Johnson, business office manager for Lakeview Surgery Center in West Des Moines, Iowa, says ASCs should not take for granted the impor- tance of benchmarking key financial metrics, such as net income per case. “ASCs are case volume–driven facil- ities. The incremental revenue and expenses generated from a case must be scrutinized. This is a simple calcu- lation but is the bottom line for show- ing how your center is performing.” Another

benchmark Johnson

watches closely is bad debt recovery as a percentage of bad debt expense. “If your number is too high, you are writing off balances too easily. This benchmark does not get covered by many industries.”

It is easy to become myopic and only see what is in front of you. Data can help you see the bigger picture if you take the time to understand it.”

—Nan Finch, CASC, Diverse Health Consulting

Worthwhile benchmarking oppor-

tunities can be missed if ASCs do not drill down into their data, says Kate Foreman, RN, quality coordinator at Lakeview Surgery Center. The ASC regularly reviews its patient satisfaction survey questions and scoring to assess how patients respond to operational changes, which recently included a new method for communication. “We started sending a postopera-

tive survey by text,” Foreman says. “The text gave patients the option to request a follow-up call. We noticed trending comments on our satis- faction survey from patients who


completed the text survey and did not select the option but then were unhappy when they did not receive a follow-up call. We changed the script of some of the texts to hopefully help address this concern.” While Johnson acknowledges the importance of paying close atten- tion to metrics, he warns of focus- ing too much on individual measures. “Benchmarks must be reviewed holis- tically.” If you are singularly working to get a benchmark within an opera- tional norm, you could be uninten- tionally creating hidden problems, he says. A good example is the days in accounts receivable (AR) benchmark. “I could send a bunch of accounts to our collections firm to 'clean up' our AR but would lose the value of hav- ing patients pay us the full value of the procedure.”

A metric Finch says is not receiv- ing enough attention is staff satis- faction. “Everything is harder dur- ing this health crisis. Do you know how your staff is managing? Are they working harder and longer hours to make up time lost during the shut- down? How is this affecting them? Benchmarking can tell you if staff satisfaction is down and help you measure whether changes you make are improving it.” The most

important aspect of

benchmarking, Finch says, is act- ing on your data. Use the data you collect to make effective and lasting changes, she says, and set aside time to look at your numbers to ensure you are seeing the entire function of your center. “It is easy to become myopic and only see what is in front of you. Data can help you see the bigger picture if you take the time to understand it.”

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