Ambulatory Surgical Centers Transforming Surgery Market

Surgery in the United States is transforming, with as many as 70% of surgeries currently performed in an outpatient setting. Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASCs) have grown significantly over the past decade and are now a critical part of the healthcare system. The Ambulatory Surgery Center Association now represents more than 6,000 centers across the United States. ASCs account for more than half of the outpatient surgery market with roughly 23 million procedures per year. The growth of these centers has had a significant impact on hospitals. As the number of ASCs has grown and hospital outpatient departments (HOPDs) have taken on fewer cases, many hospitals have elected to set up ASCs as part of their business.

This growth has been driven in part by greater scheduling flexibility and lower costs. Since most surgeries performed in outpatient settings are elective, patients are enabled to “shop” for their facility of choice prior to treatment. ASCs exclusively provide same-day surgical services that do not exceed 24 hours or require hospitalization. They are often – but not always – specialty-specific. Some of the most common specialties serviced by ASCs are orthopedics, pain, and ophthalmology (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

A recent study of Medicare patients evaluated the scope of practice, number of patients treated, number of procedures, and revenue for ASCs. The study found that across the United States there was a 7% increase in the number of ASCs certified to service Medicare patients. In 2018 there was an 11% increase in the number of services performed and a 6.5% increase in patients. The median number of surgeries performed at each ASC was 1,050 per year. Payments collected rose from $3.6 billion in 2012 to $5.1 billion in 2018, with cataract surgery accounting for 24% of all payments. The study concluded that the increased revenue was most likely due to the increasing complexity of procedures being performed and, thus, higher reimbursement.

The increase in more complex surgeries at ASCs can most likely be attributed to better anesthesiology methods that allow for improved pain control and reduced post-operative recovery time, as well as new technologies and techniques that make surgeries safer and more comfortable. The Leapfrog Group identified over 50 different procedures performed across 10 disciplines in their 2022 ASC outpatient surgery fact sheet (see Figure 2).

Figure 2.

Associated with this rise in complexity is the need for ASC staff to accurately identify high-risk patients who are not appropriate candidates for ASCs. Many ASCs have created their own methods for identifying these high-risk candidates since there are no universal or ready-to-use published criteria. Although no preoperative screening system is perfect, the average national ASC transfer rate to an inpatient facility is just 0.42%, and in one study the use of a criteria checklist (see Figure 3) helped the facility achieve a 0.17% transfer rate.

Figure 3.

To assist the growing number of patients in their selection of a surgical provider, several organizations now publish evaluations about the quality and safety of various ASC facilities. For example, Newsweek published their rankings of "America's Best Ambulatory Surgical Centers" earlier this year in partnership with the global research firm Statista. The list spotlights 470 facilities in the 25 states with the most ASCs, with up to 10 ranked centers by state. Michigan's highlighted ASCs (see Figure 4) received scores of 74% - 83%, which was based on a "reputation score" and KPI data score.

Figure 4.

As ASCs continue to have a transformative impact on the surgery market, the Michigan Value Collaborative is interested in learning more about the metrics and data being utilized by these stand-alone or hospital-affiliated centers. If you have any information to share, please reach out to the MVC Coordinating Center at michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com.


Considerations for a System Approach to Quality Improvement

As healthcare systems continue to grow and expand, organizational leadership must consider how to implement quality improvement projects across multiple sites and venues. Currently, quality improvement is implemented using a variety of efforts and methods including project-based and system-wide change. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH) shared information about how several healthcare organizations overcame challenges to accomplish sustainable system change.

For many years, healthcare organizations have worked to improve the quality of their delivery systems with the understanding that their complexity and flexibility can affect the change process. One of the early studies on this challenge identified three conditions that need to be in place for a quality improvement project to be effective:

  • A focus on areas of priority with carefully designed interventions
  • An organization that is prepared and ready for change evidenced by capable leadership, good relations with staff, and supportive information systems
  • A favorable external environment, especially regarding beneficial regulations, payment policies, and competitive factors.

Hospitals that successfully implemented QI projects hospital-wide relied on a commitment from leadership, the use of a daily management system, and quality improvement training. It was noted that those organizations more successful in QI efforts had boards that placed a priority on QI implementation, balanced short-term priorities with long-term investment in QI, used data for improvement, engaged patients and staff in the QI work, and encouraged continuous improvement culture.

The Quality and Safety in Europe by Research (QUASER) guide was used by the IJERPH study authors to assess the hospital cases they examined. This QUASER guide, now an internationally renowned framework, was first developed to aid senior leaders in facilitating systemic, detailed discussions about system-wide quality improvements. It identifies eight challenge areas (further defined in Figure 1) that healthcare organizations should address to ensure successful system-wide improvements: leadership, politics, culture, education, emotion, physical and technological infrastructure, structure, and external demands.

Figure 1.

In assessing the case studies, the IJERPH study authors found that successful QI projects had addressed each of these challenges. They also found that, although a few of the QUASER challenges were missing more often than others, many of them overlap and none of the challenges on their own were directly linked to successful projects.

While many QI managers and executive teams focus more on centralized and system-level QI improvement, clinical teams often focus on improvements at the local level with a desire to improve care at the site of delivery. Local QI efforts should be aligned with centralized efforts across health systems to enhance effectiveness and reduce the burden on clinicians. By utilizing a hybrid of local and centralized methods of QI, project awareness can be aligned, and prioritization can occur between the system leadership and local clinical areas. In addition, the IJERPH study highlighted the importance of making leaders accessible. System leaders need to prioritize communication with frontline staff so they understand the system-wide changes they are working toward.

The Michigan Value Collaborative is interested in learning more about the healthcare systems within Michigan and how system-wide quality improvement efforts are being chosen, implemented, and sustained. The Coordinating Center would like to hold discussions with leadership teams to better understand this work within the Collaborative. Let MVC know how its offerings can better serve your system-level initiatives by contacting michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com.

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Patient-Reported Outcomes Improve Quality, Equity of Care

Patient-Reported Outcomes Improve Quality, Equity of Care

For several years, patient-reported outcomes (PROs) have been a topic of interest, in part due to increased utilization of electronic data and the integration of delivery systems. PROs are defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Quality Forum as "any report of the status of a patient's health condition that comes directly from the patient, without interpretation of the patient's response by a clinician or anyone else." In short, PRO tools ask patients questions to measure how they feel and what they are experiencing. With patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs), patients provide information about their health, quality of life, and functional status, either in absolute terms (e.g., pain severity rating) or in response to treatment changes (e.g., new nausea onset). The goal of gathering this information from the patient’s perspective without any interpretation from a healthcare provider is to improve both the quality of care being delivered and health outcomes.

The use of PROs has a variety of potential benefits. They can elicit enhanced patient engagement, be used to clarify the patient’s priorities and thus improve shared decision-making between patients and providers, and can bring to light any benefits or harms of interventions. The potential impact of PROs, therefore, is substantial because involving patients in their healthcare is linked to a myriad of positive patient outcomes. For example, based on a review of studies investigating patient participation, some of the benefits to patients include:

  • increased satisfaction and trust,
  • empowerment,
  • greater self-efficacy to manage health,
  • higher quality of life,
  • better understanding of condition and personal requirements,
  • improved adherence to medical treatment plans,
  • improved communication about symptoms with positive and lasting effects on health.

Ever increasing in its availability, the use of PROs is included in clinical investigations, healthcare practice, healthcare management, and various regulatory or reimbursement areas. As the patient continues to become more central to healthcare, they are in the best position to determine if their healthcare objectives have been achieved. PROMs are not the same as measures reported by patients on their experience of the healthcare system, such as being treated with dignity or waiting too long; however, patient-reported outcome-based performance measures (PRO-PMs) are beginning to find their way into healthcare and may integrate such measures. To help understand the relationship between PROs, PROMs, and PRO-PMs, see Figure 1, which was designed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in their supplemental guide on PROMs.

Figure 1.

To gather PROs, the tools and instruments known as PROMs must measure criteria that are identifiable, valid, and reliable. Most often these are general or disease-specific self-completed questionnaires, scales, or single-item measures that provide a score for any of the following:

  • functional status,
  • health related quality of life,
  • symptom and/or symptom burden,
  • personal experience of care,
  • health-related behaviors.

Generic PROMs often delve into areas covered by a variety of different conditions, allowing for comparisons across multiple medical conditions. These PROMs help with evaluation and implementation of care provision methodology and equality of service delivery. Some may even provide a cost-effectiveness component. Disease-specific PROMs identify the impact of definitive symptoms on the condition. PROMs can be used as either the primary or secondary outcome measure of a study or trial, and most studies use a combination of disease-specific and generic PROMs.

Measurement tools integrate other existing data (biological, genetic, clinical, and physical) to assess how a patient is functioning regarding their overall health, quality of life, mental well-being, or satisfaction with a healthcare process. Using all these data sources provides a more complete picture of the patient’s health journey and allows for patients and their providers to share decision-making and define individualized care. They also provide a unique opportunity to identify inequalities in healthcare access and treatment.

When utilizing PROMs, practitioners must plan for how the information will be collected and utilized. PROMs can be collected in a variety of ways, including face-to-face interviews, online or paper questionnaires, telephone interviews, or diaries. When deciding which PROMs to utilize, it is important to consider the preferences of patients, providers, and any other involved decision-makers. It is also essential to consider the cognitive, physical, demographic, and socioeconomic barriers that may exist for the patient to ensure they have adequate accommodations to participate. The length, schedule, and timeframe of assessments should also be appropriately assessed, along with any permissions needed to use the information. Lastly, the PROMs should be easy to score and interpret, actionable, and able to facilitate clinical decisions.

The use of PROs is here to stay. The hope is that improvements in interoperability, data governance, security, privacy, and ethics will allow greater integration of PROs. In turn, PROs will allow patient preferences, needs, and health outcomes to further drive value-based healthcare.


The Behavior Change Puzzle of Medication Non-Adherence

Non-adherence to a prescribed medication regime for chronic disease management is known to lead to poor health outcomes and higher healthcare costs. A number of studies have shown that adherence is usually around 50% or less, even when medications are provided free of charge. What seems to be less clear is how best to address poor adherence; one study points out that most of the current interventions meant to improve adherence rates are too complex or ineffective, and that the research in this field is rife with weaknesses and bias.

But as with most quality improvement initiatives, understanding the source of the problem is an important first step. In this case, identifying the reasons for non-adherence is an important starting point for reducing barriers and improving patient outcomes. Many factors may affect whether a person takes their medications, including the patient themselves, the disease being treated, the health system and team, and the type of therapy involved. One study’s survey of 10,000 patients found that the most cited barrier to taking one’s medications was simply forgetfulness (24%). This was followed by perceived side effects (20%), high drug costs (17%), and a perception that their prescribed medication will have very little effect on their disease (14%).

The same study illustrated the various patient, provider, and external factors that can play a role in medication adherence using the figure below (Figure 1). If any one of these factors were to present a challenge for the patient, then they are at risk of not taking their prescribed medications on time and any related medical issues.

Figure 1.

While some interventions such as pill box aids and electronic reminders have helped patients when forgetfulness is the issue, these do not address factors such as concerns about side effects and medication-related harm, or uncertainty about the importance of taking long-term prescribed medications. These issues have the potential to be addressed through shared decision-making and education from clinical experts such as pharmacists and nurses.

One review analyzed the impact that social determinants of health has on medication adherence. Disadvantageous circumstances in social and living conditions are associated with an increase in chronic disease, and it is believed that these same challenges impact a person’s ability to manage their health. When an individual is facing food insecurity, unemployment, and unstable living conditions, they are sometimes unable to address their health concerns emotionally or financially. The review found that medication adherence was negatively impacted by food insecurity and housing instability, although few studies identified other specific social determinants that influence non-adherence to medications beyond these two. In fact, education, income, and employment status did not significantly correlate with adherence to a medication regime.

The Michigan Value Collaborative (MVC) would like to hear how your institution is addressing medication non-adherence, especially in the chronic disease patient population. This will be an upcoming topic at a chronic disease management workgroup. Please contact MVC at michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com for information about attending.


Virtual Site Visits Underway with MVC Members

The COVID-19 pandemic affected hospital operations in a myriad of ways, with many Michigan Value Collaborative (MVC) members experiencing circumstances that could impact their score on the MVC Component of the BCBSM Pay-for-Performance (P4P) program. In order to mitigate some of the effect of COVID-19, the MVC Coordinating Center introduced two extra bonus points to be earned for Program Year 2021 only. One bonus point can be achieved by attending both MVC semi-annual events; the first was held in May and the second will be held in October. The second bonus point can be earned by undertaking a virtual site visit with the MVC Coordinating Center.

To date, the Coordinating Center has completed 26 site visits, and a further 25 “visits” are scheduled with a variety of hospitals around the state. During these 90-minute virtual visits, MVC provides an overview of the collaborative, our data, and engagement activities. Hospitals receive a quality improvement slide (Figure 1) in advance that they complete and return prior to their scheduled date. These responses drive the main discussion of the site visit.

Figure 1.

Much has been learned about various quality improvement projects being implemented and what hospitals are focusing on for 2021 and 2022. MVC plans to use the information from these slides to connect hospital members with peers interested in implementing similar projects.

In addition, the Coordinating Center is interested in learning: who is utilizing the registry and any individualized reports, the types of MVC data that are most useful, and any challenges hospitals have with using the data. This feedback will help MVC make improvements to the registry and individualized reports to make them more actionable for members.

Finally, the hospital relationship with physician organizations (POs) is discussed. One of MVC’s goals is to help facilitate collaboration between POs that have patients attributed to each hospital, especially in the patient outcomes and quality of care arenas.

If you have not yet scheduled a site visit, please do so here. Slots are available between now and October. If you have any questions or would like further information on a site visit, please contact the MVC Coordinating Center at michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com.


Identifying and Solving Potentially Preventable Hospitalizations

As hospitals continue to work on reducing readmissions, another area of focus to reduce costs is through preventing potentially preventable hospitalizations, especially in chronic conditions. Potentially preventable hospitalizations, known as PPHs, are unplanned hospitalizations that have the potential to be avoided if timely and appropriate outpatient care had been received. However, in order to reduce these admissions, there has to be a means of identification. A number of methods have been reviewed to try and develop a way to identify those patients at risk of having a PPH.

In Australia, a Preventability Assessment Tool (PAT) was developed to attempt to identify patients at high risk of PPH The use of the tool compared to a similar assessment performed by an expert panel was assessed to learn if the tool identified appropriate patients. The  findings were recently published in a journal article. The expert panel consisted of a hospital physician, a primary care physician (or general practitioner (GP)), and a community nurse with expertise in the chronic conditions. The publication identified that the carefully constructed and developed PAT, when compared to the assessment of the expert panel, did not effectively identify those at risk of a PPH.

Another method to potentially identify these types of admissions is a hospital outreach program, also implemented in Australia. In the program, the patient record is flagged for areas of concern such as general health, medication, and wellness. Red flags are specific to disease or symptoms that have the potential for hospitalization. Trained telehealth guides reach out on a frequent basis (greater than weekly), while patients and caregivers can call in to the program at any time. Analysis of the flags being triggered through these phone calls may alert personnel to a deterioration in patient health, concerns about medications or a lack of support, and allow for outpatient care to be provided in a timely manner to avoid a hospitalization.

A study within the United States compared deep learning against a logistical regression model to identify prediction models for preventable hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and costs in heart failure patients. The study found that deep learning approaches identified these preventable areas more accurately than the traditional methods, indicating that outcomes are contributed to by clinical, demographic, and socioeconomic factors. The study found the main predictors for preventable hospitalizations in heart failure patients were diuretic usage, orthopedic surgery, and age (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Research suggests that although hospitals can work to identify who is at risk for a preventable hospitalization or preventable emergency department visit, a more preferable method of reducing these is improving not only quality of care but also access to care within the primary sector of the community. By reducing barriers to healthcare and improving local community services, population health outcomes can potentially be enhanced which, in turn, may lead to a reduction in potentially preventable hospitalizations.

The Michigan Value Collaborative is interested in hearing how your facility is working towards identifying potentially preventable hospitalizations and ED utilization. Please contact us at michiganvaluecollaboarative@gmail.com.


Long COVID-19, Just One Aftereffect of COVID-19

With continued COVID-19 surges occurring worldwide despite the availability of a number of variations of vaccines, some patients continue to experience what is now being dubbed as “Long COVID-19” or “Post COVID-19 Syndrome”. Symptoms that are commonly experienced include a persistent cough, dyspnea, chest and/or joint pain, neuralgia, and headaches. These symptoms can last up to 12 weeks and in some cases, even longer. The more people that develop long COVID-19, the greater the strain on the healthcare system and need for appropriate diagnosis and treatment options.

A recent paper by A.V. Raveendran from January 2021 proposed diagnostic criteria to help confirm a diagnosis of long COVID-19. Depending on clinical symptomology, duration criteria and the presence or absence of a positive swab or antibodies, a long COVID-19 diagnosis can be categorized as confirmed, probable, possible or doubtful. Having an appropriate diagnosis will allow the practitioner to prescribe the relevant treatment plan.

In the United Kingdom, where the number of people exhibiting long COVID-19 continues to increase, a guideline has been developed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to provide recommendations to help identify, assess, and manage the effects. As more evidence is collected, the plan is to update the document on a continuous basis to maintain its validity. The guideline takes into consideration clinical symptomology, duration criteria, and the presence or absence of a positive SARS-Cov-2 test. It also provides guidelines for suggested referrals, and a plan of care with follow-up and monitoring.

While the guideline manual has many useful suggestions, there are a number of gaps where further detailed information will be needed.  As new information is discovered, the goal is to include comprehensive reviews of symptomology, and pathology of the disease process and a better understanding of the variation in impact. Simultaneously, there needs to be an increase in rehabilitation and community resources to allow for individualized evidenced based care for those suffering from the debilitating effects of long COVID-19.

The Michigan Value Collaborative continues to assess data related to COVID-19 and will be sharing a dedicated COVID-19 push report with members in the coming months. If you would like access to the MVC registry, please request it here or via email michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com


Learning Health Systems and Quality Improvement

The mission of the Michigan Value Collaborative (MVC) is to improve the health of Michigan through sustainable, high-value healthcare with a vision to help provide the right care, at the right time, at the right cost. As part of this, MVC helps its members better understand their performance using robust multi-payer data, customized analytics, and at-the-elbow support. In addition, MVC fosters a collaborative learning environment to enable providers to learn from one another and share best practice. All of this is designed to help members respond to change, drive quality improvement, and improve performance.

Improving performance is often easier said than done – a phenomenon often referred to as the “60.30.10 Challenge”. Following the review of health learning systems in Australia, this phenomenon was identified as a key challenge that the healthcare system has faced for three decades. Despite change and areas for improvement being identified throughout healthcare, only 60% of evidenced based care is provided to patients, 30% of care is identified as waste or duplication, and at least 10% of patients experience adverse events or medical harm. With this in mind, can the current healthcare system embrace the many new technologies and advancements in medicine on the horizon?

While these new advances in technology have the ability to improve care and prolong life, there is conversely an addition of complexity and increased risk with utilizing them. It is important to understand that healthcare systems are complex and typically do not respond in a linear way to change. A collaboration of healthcare providers set up in Australia realized some key activities for improvement   initiatives within health care systems . These activities were included in the setting up of the collaborative known as the Translational Cancer Research Network and involved incentives, resources, administrative support to provide encouragement, collaboration and reduced constraints, data support, and expertise in implementation science. A number of new projects such as increased consumer engagement and improvement in diagnosis for various cancers came out of involvement in this network.

While root-cause analysis has long been used to identify medical failures, this may not be the best method to effectively establish safety protocols to prevent further harm due to the complex pathways within healthcare that are infrequently repeated. Instead, healthcare needs to take a different approach by introducing models of care that promote collaboration, exceed independent specialties, and advocate for combining hospital, primary care, community agencies, and elder care to navigate well-informed patients through evidenced based healthcare pathways along the continuum of care. There is a need to shift the paradigm and learn from what is going well and those that are successful. By spreading good practices across all healthcare systems, allowing healthcare teams to effectively improve processes in real time, and teaching clinicians to manage data and understand continuous improvement methods, a learning system can be developed.

By creating a learning system, efforts to improve care can be better aligned. Drivers of the system include a commitment to improvement, being ready and prepared for change, being aware of the capacity of and barriers to progress, knowledge of implementation strategies, and lastly providing leverage and resources to learning. In addition, data can be utilized by these fluid learning systems to aid patient and clinician decision-making. It is hoped that a flexible system with relevant information and data to make the right decision, and the ability to adjust processes will help to reenergize clinicians, enabling them to provide increasingly appropriate, safer, and higher quality care with less waste.

The Michigan Value Collaborative (MVC) can help you by providing claims data across 40 different medical and surgical conditions. Additionally, we have regular workgroups that meet to share best practices. If you are interested in custom analytics for your institution, joining a workgroup or want to learn more about what MVC has to offer, please contact the Coordinating Center at michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com.



Building Resilience

Following on from last week’s blog discussing burnout in the healthcare profession, this week we look at resilience and how to build it in the workforce, particularly during times of high stress. Resilience can be defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties” (Oxford Languages), while the American Psychological Association believe resilience to be “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress”. Due to recent events, resilience among healthcare workers has become a highly publicized topic and is often in the forefront of the news. Currently, everyone has a need to build resiliency and be treated with compassion and empathy.

Although a number of articles have depicted an increase in anxiety, depression and substance use, studies done following other traumatic events such as the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak have shown a common outcome to be long-term resilience in the majority of those impacted rather than post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Resilience is not a one size fits all and everybody will respond to an event in their own way. However, taking steps to adapt behavior while struggling and experiencing intense grief, fear or anxiety will impact a person’s resilience. It is continuing to show up and move forward even while facing adversity.

Additionally, resilience is not something one has or not, it is an acquired and learned behavior that is constructed actively and created through dynamic behavioral, cognitive, and environmental processes. Resilience can be cultivated through the influence of individuals and communities. By propagating togetherness and behaviors that are beneficial to others, resilience can be built within a neighborhood and each other.

Building resilience within a community takes individuals, but how can resilience be nurtured within these individuals? In a systematic literature review looking at the factors affecting resilience, the following themes were identified:

  • Influence of individual factors such as a sense of purpose, identifying the need for self-care, and holding a positive outlook
  • Influence of environmental and organizational factors indicated by workplace culture, and including identification and measurement of resilience especially within high-risk groups
  • Individual approaches to professional circumstances covering workload management, work-life balance, social support, and use of coping strategies
  • Educational interventions

Effective educational interventions may include resilience workshops along with cognitive behavioral training, stress reduction programs using mindfulness techniques, and healthcare simulation.

While we continue to undergo challenges and face adversity, it is important we take the time for self-care and also to support work colleagues and neighborhoods to build individual and community resilience. The MVC Coordinating Center is available to support, please feel free to reach out at michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com