Northpoint Surgery & Laser Center: Connie Casey, Administrator

by HCE Exchange on November 1, 2010

Small companies have the capability to offer their clients customized, one-on-one care, but might have problems when it comes to capital expenses and large-scale projects. That’s where Northpoint Surgery & Laser Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. found a way to incorporate hometown care with nationwide support.

According to administrator Connie Casey, Northpoint was physician-owned when it opened in 1996. However, in 2003, National Surgical Care became an equity owner, an addition that continues to be beneficial to the organization. National Surgical Care provides Northpoint’s management services and handles all financials, insurance and human resources. The partner also helps with billing, transcription and electronic recordkeeping.

“National Surgical Care sets up all the services that we need,” she said. “This makes running the facility much easier for us than when we were operating by ourselves.”

Casey, who is the organization’s original administrator, noted that National Surgical Care also provides Northpoint with any back-up assistance that may be needed. For example, they have a nursing clinical liaison that comes to Northpoint and assists with policies or updating skills for the 80 staff members and/or 58 medical personnel. They also provide leadership development for the facility’s administrators.

In addition to services, National Surgical Care installed one IT system throughout the company that gives administrators access to vital information.

“That’s been a huge benefit,” she said. “Any time corporate needs me to provide them with information about the center I can look that up, even from home.”

Challenges

Having additional support also helps Northpoint deal with a number of financial challenges, many of which are due to financial cuts by either Medicare or insurance companies. Employees are stretched thin, as the center works to provide the same level of care with fewer staff members.

“We aren’t making as much money as we used to yet we’re still trying to provide the same level of care to our patients,” Casey said. “Our employees are taking on a lot more jobs than before.”

Getting those employees to put in the extra time has also become a challenge, Casey said, as she finds younger staff members bringing a diminished work ethic. (to their.) They want the least number of hours possible and once on the job they don’t want to work as much as their older counterparts.

“I think this is a matter of Baby Boomers were brought up to work as hard as you can, for as long as you can,” she said. “People just don’t want to work like that anymore.”

Capital Expenditures

Keeping up with the latest equipment is a big part of the business, Casey said. Northpoint just updated its arthroscopy equipment, which is typically updated about every three years, as the manufactures update features of the equipment. She said they also just purchased a new laser, updated their operating room tables and are trialing new ENT microscopes. In addition, to meet new infection control requirements, the organization just purchased a new washer disinfector, in line with new infection control guidelines.

“It’s a constant battle when it comes to new equipment,” she said. “Doctors want to be the best that they can be, so as equipment is updated they receive training on the new equipment and we need to update.”

On the software side, Northpoint is also instituting a virtual medical records system. This will assist in meeting Medicare regulations requiring surgical facilities to keep patients medical records for 10 years.

“This creates a huge storage problem and a huge expense for most facilities, particularly ones like ours that have been in operation for more than 10 years,” Casey said. “You’re going to have to find a place to store the patient charts.”

This will also help Northpoint provide continuing care to patients who return to the facility for regular treatment. Staff members and physicians will be able to access patients’ records quickly and easily, making things like patient registration more efficient and allowing physicians to revisit the patient’s previous medical history.

Quality and Patient Safety Initiatives

Quality and patient safety are big topics in the surgical arena today, a fact Casey attributes to new Medicare guidelines that emphasize infection control. At Northpoint, the infection rate is 0.0003%, she said, and any infections are followed through until the complication is resolved and the patient is in good condition. The organization has quality assurance performance improvement and safety committees as well as an infection control committee, each of which deal with various patient safety initiatives. Information on these matters is shared on a daily basis and monthly training sessions are held to train employees in something related to safety, infection control or quality assurance/improvement.

In addition, all nurses are required to be trained in Advanced Cardiac Life Support and every nurse in the pre-op and PACU areas are required to be trained in Pediatric Advanced Life Support.

The Future of Healthcare

Casey and her peers are closely watching the healthcare arena, as they being to feel the effects of insurance companies reducing coverage and adding hurdles to the pre-authorization process. Many of these changes leave facilities like Northpoint struggling to remain profitable.

“They’re trying to decrease the payments they’re making to doctors, so doctors are selling their practices to hospitals or other facilities because they just can’t make it anymore on their own,” she said. “We’re moving toward a socialized medicine. That’s the last thing we in the healthcare arena want. You don’t know if you’re getting the best doctor to treat your medical condition. You have no choices.”

Operating a profitable healthcare facility while keeping abreast of new regulations, and most importantly, providing quality patient care, are the challenges Casey and her Northpoint staff continue to handle on a daily basis. These are challenges, however, that this ASC administrator has confidence her organization will continue to take head on and deal with on a daily basis.

-by Kathy Knaub-Hardy

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