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April 13, 2012

What Can Patient Demographics Reveal About Your ASC?

Surgery centers considering expansion can often turn to community demographics for guidance on the most market-appropriate specialties for their patient pool.  Here are three key steps to take in obtaining and analyzing signs from the community.

1. Compile past and present patient demographics.  The first place to look for this type of data is often the surgery center itself, according to Adam Higman, a consultant with healthcare management consulting firm Soyring Consulting.  Centers should aim to gather a diverse mix of information, including the income, age, disease risks and factors, location, zip code, neighborhoods, payments, and insurance information of past and current patients at the center.  Based on this internal information, he says, a center can often hone in on where patients are coming from and how far they're traveling to get to the center — data that indicates what type of radius the surgery center can expect to draw from for future patients.

2. Consult public records or agencies for additional data.  If greater analysis and market research is desired, centers can hire a third party agency to analyze demographic information with a greater focus on payors and target patient areas in the community, says Mr. Higman.  The fees associated with demographic analysis often pale in comparison to the revenue generated as a result, he adds.

"If you're getting questions out of that research that you can't answer, if you find that you can't get patients from a certain area, or if your payor mix isn't what you'd like it to be, it makes sense to contact someone else to make sure you have a strong understanding of the data," says Mr. Higman.

3. Use market data to guide surgery center expansion.  The local population is a key indicator of which specialties a center can realistically add, and market data will often present surgery centers with several options, says Mr. Higman.  For example, a surgery center may find that it is located in an optimal market for orthopedics — a market characterized by middle-income workers who are insured and often perform manual labor, such as those in the construction, timber, and agriculture sectors.  This population typically sees a greater amount of orthopedic issues, and therefore would be a realistic market in which to add orthopedic and spine specialties.

"If that is your local population, the question isn't whether you'll have your volume, but whether you'll have the right payor mix," Mr. Higman says.  Examining the specialties offered by competing surgery centers will help to further narrow down options for expansion, but ultimately, surgery centers that take the time to gather market data typically press forward in the correct direction towards profitable and market-appropriate specialties.

"It's a question of whether [surgery centers] are picking the right area to expand into," says Mr. Higman.  "The only time [a center should reconsider plans for expansion] is if you can't recruit somebody for a profitable area, or if you're in an area that's difficult to draw the right patients to.  Otherwise, the sky's the limit."

Read the full article from Becker's ASC Review.

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