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Profiting During the Pandemic
Find ways to cut costs and increase revenues during this uncertain time.
Daniel Cook
Publish Date: July 13, 2020   |  Tags:   COVID-19
LET'S MAKE A DEAL Work with vendor reps to find fair and sustainable price points for supplies and equipment.

Earlier this year, Buffalo Surgery in Amherst, N.Y., Center was humming along as usual. More than 30 physicians packed its ORs and procedure rooms with 1,500 cases a month, creating a constant buzz of activity and filling the reserves with a steady stream of revenue. Life (and business) was good in Upstate New York.

And then poof, the cases were gone. Just like that.

"We were shut down essentially overnight when COVID-19 hit," says David Uba, MBA, the center's CEO. "It was a little unnerving."

The orthopedic-centric center lost 98% of its usual case volume over April and May when only emergent procedures were performed. Elective cases restarted in June, and the facility's surgeons began digging into a backlog of more than 4,000 postponed procedures, which allowed the center to reach full capacity by the end of the month.

"Our plan is to maintain 95% capacity and run the year out," says Mr. Uba. "We lost two-and-a-half months of revenue, and I don't think we're going to make it up."

Sound familiar? A month ago, you were probably thrilled (and exhausted from implementing new COVID-19 precautionary protocols) to reopen your ORs and ramp up case volumes. Now you're probably wondering how to ramp up revenues. It's going to take some creative thinking, honest conversations and, as if you need more of it, plenty of hard work.

  • New business. Elective procedures in Virginia were called off in early April, forcing Andy Poole, FACHE, to regroup and reassess the business plan he wrote for Monticello Community Surgery Center (MCSC) in Charlottesville. His physicians performed only 37 urgent cases in April, a fraction of the more than 400 procedures that fill the facility during a typical month. In June, with physicians working through a backlog of cases, the facility hosted more than 500 procedures. Mr. Poole, the center's CEO, expects that bubble to burst in the fall.

The cases in which MCSC specializes are short in duration — cataract, GI and pain cases — and performed with conscious sedation instead of general anesthesia, meaning they don't require the stringent between-cases cleaning needed during this COVID-19 era. Fast room turnovers make these procedures good options for ramping up case volumes.

MCSC, which reopened its four ORs and procedure room on May 4, reached full capacity last month thanks in part to Mr. Poole's networking. He donned his inside sales hat and made sure the physicians who regularly bring cases to the center were aware it was open for business and had plenty of slots to fill on its schedule. He also asked them to spread the word.

Several of the physicians hadn't been able to return to other facilities in the area that had yet to reopen.

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