This article originally appeared in the March 2023 edition of the PE GI Journal by PE GI Solutions. PE GI Solutions is now a part of SCA Health. To read the journal in its entirety, including past editions, click here.
When it comes to where GI doctors schedule and perform colonoscopies, they have options. But for most of these procedures, the optimal site will be an ASC.
Annie Sariego and Tracy Belsan, market presidents for PE GI Solutions, now a part of SCA Health, discuss the numerous benefits associated with performing colonoscopies at surgery centers.
ASCs have a reputation of providing high-quality care. It’s a reputation that’s been earned and validated over many years, Sariego says. “To be a licensed and accredited ASC, you must abide by strict quality standards. These standards help ensure the highest quality of care is delivered consistently, thus keeping patients safe and reducing the risk of infections.”
Surgery centers are also justifiably recognized as low-cost settings, says Belsan. “Everything we do at the ASC is patient-centric and focused on the patient experience. That not only concerns quality of care but also the cost for our patients. We also keep cost for the facility, its physicians and the healthcare system as a whole top of mind when we’re thinking about the services we provide and their price points.”
By design, ASCs provide greater convenience for patients than larger facilities. “Although health systems are fantastic partners of ours and provide important services, it’s much easier for patients to go to a freestanding facility than navigate the morass of a health system,” Belsan says.
Convenience extends to scheduling colonoscopies, Sariego says. “ASCs tend to be more controlled environments from a scheduling perspective. Physicians and patients can find the times that work best for their schedules.”
ASCs also typically have on-time starts because of their consistent throughput and flow, Sariego adds. “This means patients and their families can keep the time they need to take off for colonoscopies to a minimum and allows GI doctors to optimize the time they spend at the ASC.”
Since ASCs specialize in particular specialties and procedures, staff become specialized in those areas. This tends to translate to a better patient experience, Belsan says. “You can focus your training on just those specialties and procedures, which leads to highly trained staff. We see this expertise reflected in high patient experience scores.”
When staff excel in their work, they tend to be more satisfied with their work, Sariego says. “When you combine happy staff with happy patients, you typically get happy physicians.”
A goal of SCA Health shared by its ASCs and other surgery centers around the country is improving access to GI services, including colonoscopies. ASCs that specialize in GI can focus on expanding access. “We know the importance of undergoing routine colonoscopies and work to get as many people in for the service as possible,” Sariego says. “This effort includes outreach to and education of the uninsured and underinsured residents of the various communities we operate in. We won’t turn patients away who should receive this preventive care.”
Collaboration with Physician Practices
ASCs usually collaborate closely with their associated physician practices since the practices serve as ongoing referral sources. “When you achieve the high levels of collaboration we see between our surgery centers and practices,” Belsan says, “you can hardwire patient access patient throughput—the continuity of care—in a much more integrated way than may be possible with health systems.”
This collaboration also helps support more effective colonoscopy recall programs, Sariego adds. “The connection you get from having the same physicians from practice to ASC really lends itself to getting patients back in for their next procedures.”
Ease of Growth
When warranted, ASCs can typically take advantage of growth opportunities more easily than larger settings, Belsan says. “There’s more nimbleness and flexibility if we want to expand, grow or provide different patient access at a location. Our business model allows for a greater ability to expand a room, add days, add hours, add staff or undertake other growth initiatives than would not be possible in a health system.”
Quality and Performance Improvement
The specialization of ASCs also supports greater quality and performance improvement.
“In the case of our ASCs, we can focus on quality data specific to GI procedures and only GI procedures since that’s all we do,” Sariego says. “This helps ensure the standards of care we provide exceed national GI benchmarks for quality.”
Such a narrower focus can lead to more effective benchmarking, Belsan says. “Nothing gets in the way of us constantly monitoring and measuring our performance. We can then share these impressive statistics with patients, who are increasingly interested in quality data. We can also share the data with physicians, both those already working for us and those we’re looking to recruit. They want to understand those metrics and align themselves with locations that shine on quality.”
Improving Access to Other Services
An important benefit of performing colonoscopies in ASCs rather than in hospitals is this allows hospital beds to go to patients who need them. “We have hospitals reach out to us because they want to partner with us,” Belsan says. “They understand that combining their strengths and our strengths mean greater patient access and more convenience for patients, both those requiring GI services and those requiring care in other specialties. When colonoscopies are performed in ASCs, hospitals can better focus on those areas and procedures they really need to focus on for their own patient access and bottom-line issues.”
ASCs: The Optimal Site for Colonoscopies
While GI doctors should always carefully select the site where they perform colonoscopies, taking into consideration factors such as patient risk and accessibility, the clinical, financial and operational benefits of bringing the procedure to ASCs should make surgery centers the default location. “When colonoscopies are performed in ASCs, it’s great for patients, it’s great for physicians and it’s great for our healthcare system,” Sariego says.