The road to recovery: 5 surgical trends facing hospitals in 2021

Hospitals continue to navigate challenges in the surgical domain that have the capacity to further affect financial performances, including accelerated outpatient migration, increased price transparency and greater patient expectations.

During a Jan. 21 webinar hosted by Becker's ASC Review and sponsored by Surgical Directions, Leslie Basham, the company's president and CEO, and Josh Miller, MD, physician managing director, identified five surgical trends for hospital leadership to capitalize on this year.

Five key trends in 2021:

1. Patient expectations. This year will see a rise in virtual care and a focus on the patient-centric environment. The COVID-19 pandemic caused virtual visits and telehealth to expand exponentially, with older Americans particularly embracing the technology. Patient engagement tools and remote patient monitoring devices are also rising in popularity. Establishing a physician-led, patient-focused operational governing body at your hospital will greatly contribute to securing a seamless patient experience, according to Dr. Miller.

2. Outpatient migration. The pandemic has accelerated outpatient surgical migration from hospitals toward ASCs. Other contributors to outpatient growth include reduced cost, lower case cancellation rate, payers advocating for the use of ASCs and CMS' plan to eliminate the inpatient only list. As this trend continues, "it's really important that hospital leadership find ways to build a footprint in the ambulatory world," Dr. Miller said. "If you're not in the game, you're going to lose the game."

3. Increased price transparency. Healthcare policy changes regarding price transparency continue to direct how patients seek care. Price transparency is driven by increasing demand based on rising out-of-pocket costs and the government's goal to reduce the overall healthcare spend. Additionally, the popularity of high-deductible health plans is growing, making patients more cost-conscious, according to Ms. Basham. "People shop price," she said. "What do you do for your facility, your product, to help make sure that you're delivering the highest value care, while still remaining competitive in the surgical environment?"  

4. Margin pressures. While HHS distributed more than $178 billion in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding to hospitals and healthcare providers last year, hospitals are estimated to have lost $323.1 billion in 2020 because of the pandemic, according to the American Hospital Association. Lost revenue was mostly due to the postponement, or in many cases, the cancellation of surgeries, which will feel even greater margin pressure this year, Ms. Basham said. However, this can be managed by focusing on ways to boost your hospital's top line and reducing its bottom line. Such strategies include surgeon retention, limiting same-day case cancellations and creating outcome- or risk-based contracts with vendors. 

5. Data-driven operating rooms. The amount of healthcare data doubles every 73 days, according to Ms. Basham. Surgical service leaders have access to more data and digital tools than ever before. The key for 2021 will be focusing on ways to turn that data into insight. For example, a delay in first case on-time starts and slow turnovers can lead to unnecessary labor cost and forgone revenue due to lost volume. On the other hand, on-time starts and quick turnovers provide an opportunity for an additional case with less overall labor expense. Analytical tools can monitor these events and leverage data to deconstruct the surgical schedule and improve patient access by upping the number of cases performed on a particular day, Ms. Basham said.

Click here to learn more about Surgical Directions and here to view the full webinar.

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