In recent years, shifting trends in healthcare consumerism have demonstrated that patients want more options in how and where they receive treatment. Patients want the ability to choose a care facility that best meets their immediate clinical needs, while keeping cost and personal inconveniences (like prolonged hospital stays) to a minimum. Consequently, Ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) and other outpatient facility types are gaining an increasing amount of consumer popularity.
What are Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs)?
ASCs (also known as Outpatient Surgery Centers) are healthcare facilities that focus on same-day outpatient surgical care. ASCs are convenient alternatives to more traditional hospital-based outpatient care, but with lower costs and relatively consistent, positive patient outcomes.
Why market to outpatient centers in 2020?
Many healthcare industry observers have confidently projected that the outpatient market in 2020 is going to continue to grow in exciting ways, and ASCs will likely see increased attention because of this. It is not just about convenience and cost either. There are larger industry-wide transformations that are making the outpatient care market grow at an attention-grabbing rate — innovative technologies are improving surgical recovery times, for example.
Organizations that can help to further improve ASC patient treatment outcomes or facilitate smoother outpatient journeys will find a hungry market for their products and services throughout the coming years.
How to customize your go-to-market for ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs)
Every business will be looking to market their own distinct product, so determining which ambulatory surgery centers (as well as which geographic regions) become top priorities will be dependent upon business needs. All businesses, however, can follow this general structure to identify important key opinion-leaders (KOLs) within their priority ASCs.
There are a few ways to identify a high-priority care facility (outpatient or otherwise). For example, according to Definitive Healthcare data, the most common procedure reported by ASCs in 2018 was Botox injections.
10 highest ambulatory surgery center procedure volumes in 2018
Ambulatory Surgery Center
Number of Procedures
Comprehensive Pain Center for Surgery
Triamcinolone A injection, PRS-free
Pacific Surgery Center
Boston Surgery Center LLC
National Spine & Pain Center - Germantown
Gelsyn-3 injection 0.1 mg
Parkway Surgery Center
Town Center ASC
Summit Ambulatory Surgery Center
Centerview Surgery Center LLC
Central Ohio Urology Surgery Center
The Urology Center LLC
Fig. 1 Data from Definitive Healthcare's Ambulatory Surgery Centers database. Medicare data is from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Ambulatory Surgery Center Limited Data Set (LDS), calendar year 2018 (most recent data available). Data accessed May 2020.
As an example, say that a pharmaceutical company has a topical anesthetic cream that numbs the surface area before an injection is done, and this product is ready to go-to-market. This company can review the ranking list from above and instantly identify eight prime candidates for further research (Pacific Surgery Center, Boston Surgery Center, etc.).
If we look closer into the Pacific Surgery Center specifically, we can use the Definitive Healthcare Executives database to find that there are multiple KOLs with serious swaying power within this ASC. These would be great points of contact for your sales team to have.
An important fact to remember before approaching KOLs directly, however, is that you cannot afford to waste high-value opportunities like these. It is best to have an informed plan of approach before initiating any conversations and to arm yourself with knowledge surrounding why this KOL’s facility will benefit from your product — be as specific as possible. This is an opportunity to show off a well-constructed value proposition.
Proving that you have done your research will go a long way. In the case of the Pacific Surgery Center, a rep could display topical knowledge by mentioning that Botox injections accounted for 7.4% of their ambulatory surgery center's total annual charges in 2018. With 45,200 total reported procedures, these injections are a top service for this particular ASC.
A rep could then note that the Pacific Surgery Center average charge per Botox injection is $6, which is highly competitive compared to the national average. So competitive, in fact, that there is room to add an optional topical anesthetic treatment for patients uncomfortable with injections, which can be used to boost annual quality scores for the ASC and lead to improved reimbursement bonuses for the year.
This is an informed conversation that is much more likely to persuade a KOL than reading from another generic sales script, and similar formulas can be used to strengthen any organization’s sales strategy.
How COVID-19 is affecting the outpatient market
Initially, per CDC recommendation, ambulatory surgery centers and other outpatient facilities had been advised to turn away any new elective surgeries in favor of telemedicine services. This was obviously a major financial hit for ASCs and the like. However, on March 30th, 2020, the Trump administration requested for more than 5,000 outpatient centers in the U.S. to aid in treatment for COVID-19 patients.
The purpose of this shift was to improve safety conditions at overwhelmed local hospitals and reduce the likelihood of further viral spread. With the help of these previously closed outpatient centers, U.S. hospitals dealing with the brunt of COVID treatments now have access to thousands of additional beds and hundreds more healthcare professionals. These outpatient facilities have even been given clearance to provide treatment to non-COVID patients.
It remains to be seen how this will shape the outpatient market, but it is unlikely that it will be "business as usual" for some time after the national quarantine comes to a close. It is safe to assume, though, that ASCs will be looking to compensate for any losses sustained during the elective surgery blackout period.