Defining an offering for Surgical Centers

Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs) are a rapidly growing segment of the US Healthcare Ecosystem, enabling providers to perform same-day outpatient procedures in a safe and cost-effective environment outside the hospital. Many of our specialist clients owned or were building ASCs to support their patient and business needs. Most of these clients were forcing their staff to use paper or 3rd party surgery systems - or using a painful and outdated workflow which had been cobbled together from our product to “sorta kinda” fit the needs of an ASC. Leadership saw a unique opportunity to serve this growing market, and needed a clear product vision and roadmap for how we could get there.


How might we enable our clients to coordinate and document surgical cases within the ASC, while seamlessly sharing information between the patient’s surgical chart and their chart in clinic?

🔍 Discover

Lorie and I came into this project with previous experience both with Orthopedics and with Surgery workflows; both of us had been involved in the investment case for Orthopedics at the end of 2019. We kicked off the process by getting a handle on what we knew and what we still didn’t know about Ambulatory Surgery Centers. Lorie set about identifying the right subject matter experts and trying to find representative ASC clients we could talk to, while I dug into as much previous research as I could to find previous research, business cases, etc. that had been done over the years. I helped us facilitate an internal workshop with SMEs from around the business to help us align our assumptions around the problems in the space, our expected outcomes, and the open questions we still had about the space.

Output from a cross-functional workshop to kick off the initiative

Following the workshop, we created a research plan that would help us uncover:

  • What are the key differences between hospital and ASC surgery workflows?
  • How does surgery coordination happen when coordinating between clinic and owned/adjacent ASC, compared to a nearby hospital?
  • How do the different roles - nurses, staff, patient, and surgeon - interact with each other during the course of a surgery case?
  • What documentation is captured along the way - who captures it, when, and how?
Broad Themes helped us orient research conversations and readouts.

Our research included a listening tour with a handful of our more engaged ASC clients, to hear more about their operations, and get them excited to partner with us to create a great product. We followed up with team site visits to three of our ASCs, where we shadowed workflows across the entire surgery journey - from coordinating and scheduling to post-operative recovery. Through this, we were able to find a handful of high-level problem themes we could use to orient our discussions around the problem space.

I also started putting together a service blueprint in MURAL that broke down the high-level steps of the journey from deciding a surgery is required to post-operative followup, layering in the people, documentation, systems, and issues that came in along the way. Along the top of the blueprint, I added a written scenario to help us orient the blueprint around a representative story - of a woman named Joan, who needs to get a hip replacement.

The service blueprint extended across the entire journey, and let us see all the different pieces of the puzzle.

📖 Define

Fresh off our site visits, Lorie and I worked with the crew to map our research findings against the service blueprint. I grouped the stickies into themes, and gave each a brief description for our readout. Seeing the problems up close led us to a series of feature/hypothesis statements that we were able to define and prioritize against the blueprint - helping us to draft an early sketch of our roadmap for the initial offering.

We plotted features across the blueprint, and used heart icons to note the MVP needs.
OOUX worksheet in MURAL.

I also worked with our Engineering and UX Leads for the ASC Offering to map out an Object Map to suss out the different objects and their attributes - in particular, which attributes we might be able to transfer directly from the surgery order into the surgery case in the ASC.

📐 Align

Across all of this work, we kept in touch with our peers across functions - Onboarding, Customer Success, Sales, and R&D - with monthly business reviews where we shared snippets of what we were learning and what it all meant. As our listening tour concluded, we also created a private ASC user group on athena’s Success Community that allowed our client co-design partners to get an inside look at what we were doing and provide early feedback. The user group also gave us the ability to do deeper research prior to diving into a problem space; in the first few groups, I used our problem themes (see Discover phase) to lead a focused discussion around one of the themes.

As we started getting a bigger handle on what features/hypotheses we needed to prioritize, we also started bringing in the teams who would be executing on the work to help with, and eventually take over, the research and design of the big bets we had established. In the meantime, I also crafted some key storytelling deliverables to help teams around the org understand what made surgeries distinctly different from the typical 1 patient/1 doctor relationships we often thought about in our world.

I created this graphic to demonstrate the significance of support roles in the success of a surgical case.

✅ Outcome

Through collaborative site visits, service blueprinting, and interviews, we:

  • arrived at a clear human-centered vision for the product
  • coordinated across functions to align on strategy, scope, and resourcing
  • prioritized and validated a list of near term and longer-term requirements
  • socialized and built out an investment case for additional resources to build out the vision

Development work, based on the vision we outlined, was funded at the end of 2021, and will continue into 2023 and beyond. The research and vision that we created in partnership with the teams working on the product has set us up for a successful alpha, as well as a deeply engaged client base who is committed to the success of the product.