Fun, services and sports stars seemed to be the best drawing cards for ambulatory surgery centers participating in the National ASC Open House Day, held last Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for the Federated Ambulatory Surgery Association, a trade group that sponsored the event to raise public awareness about the contributions ASCs make to their communities.
"We had some pretty exciting events," said Kathy Bryant, executive director of the 1,400-member Alexandria, Va.,-based association, which sent out sent out how-to kits on hosting and getting media attention for the open houses to 1,600 ASCs nationwide.
"We had one in Pennsylvania that had 300 attendees," she said of event sponsored by the Surgery Center at Cranberry (Pa.).
Ophthalmologists there screened for cataracts and glaucoma and distributed free vitamins, a local eyewear shop contributed free cleaning and adjustment of eyeglasses, clinicians were on hand to take visitors' blood pressure readings, people who brought in used glasses could make donations to a mission in Ghana, and a local radio station had its mobile studio set up in the parking lot and gave away ice cream, potato chips and soda "in keeping with the high-fiber diet they were promoting," Bryant said.
Central Maine Orthopedics in Auburn had professional hockey players signing autographs, and Chandana Surgery Center in Valparaiso, Ind., drew five state legislators and U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, Bryant said.
Maureen Beekman, executive director of Chandana, a multispecialty surgery center with three operating rooms, said they put the FASA kit to use. "We pretty much went with their suggestions about notifying the press and got a hold of some names of reporters who regularly write about health events, and I faxed them the flyer we made up," Beekman said. Staffers also passed out the flyers to patients and posted them on community bulletin boards.
"We did purchase some mailing labels from the chamber of commerce, and we got it out to some businessmen in the area," she said. "We counted a total of 81 (attendees). It wasn't overwhelming, but for our little place, we thought that was good."
Two Brownie troops visited, Beekman said, and in addition to cider and cookies, "the thing that was the most fun was the nurses got together and had what we called 'Taking the Fright out of Surgery for Kids.'
"We had a mock OR set up in our recovery room. They (the visiting children) wore the gowns and the hats, They got their arms prepped. We had the sequential compression devices for the legs they got to try on. We had some fun tattoos we put on their arms and cheeks."
With the once-explosive growth of physician-owed specialty hospitals stifled by a Medicare payment moratorium sponsored by competitors in the acute-care hospital industry, ASC owners are wary about possible government intervention in their affairs.
The open houses were a way for ASC owners to raise their profiles and make friends within their communities, according to Bryant.
Bryant said she doesn't know yet the total number of ASCs that participated in the events, but a limited membership sample taken beforehand found 50 members who said they had activities planned.