5 Tips to Build Physician Loyalty at Your Surgery Center
Here are five ways ambulatory surgery center administrators can build loyalty among their physicians.
1. Customize physician discharge forms. If a physician uses your ASC on a regular basis, customize his discharge forms and postoperative instructions to save him time explaining his specific instructions to patients. "Reach out to the doctor and say, 'You're here every Thursday, so let us customize the forms to make your life easier and faster,'" Jared Leger, RN, CEO and managing partner of Arise Healthcare says. The forms can provide specific physician contact information, details on his preferred home health company and any specific guidelines he would like to communicate to patients. Physicians will feel appreciated when they arrive at the PACU and find the personalized forms waiting for them.
2. Treat all physicians with the same respect. When partners initially join a surgery center, they will probably be excited to bring cases and get involved with surgery center projects, Blayne Rush, MHP, MBA, president of Ambulatory Alliances says. Over time, however, they may notice that another partner who brings more cases to the center receives preferential treatment. He recommends treating every partner, even younger ones, with the same amount of respect, keeping in mind what the physician could do for the surgery center in the future. "The person who's doing 20 cases a month now could be doing 50 cases a month in five years," Mr. Rush says. "You need to look at them and see where they're going," he says.
He says that a lack of enthusiasm from physicians can be the death knell of a center, since someone else is almost certainly recruiting your physicians to another facility. Make sure to keep your partners excited about the opportunities at your center, even after they've been with you for a number of years.
3. Communicate about problems — and offer immediate solutions. Physicians may experience frustration with your center for a number of reasons, Robert Carrera, president of Pinnacle III says. This frustration is natural, but an astute administrator consistently checks in with physicians and handles problems in a timely fashion. If physicians are left to stew over problems that could have been fixed, the center may lose providers unnecessarily.
Mr. Carrera says common problems including scheduling issues (can the surgeon get his cases on the schedule without too much hassle?), equipment issues (is the equipment in your facility updated and ordered to the physicians’ specifications?) and staff issues (are staff consistent and helpful in the OR?). He indicates the administrator should check in with physicians at least every other time they come to the facility, and OR managers and nurses should be tasked with checking in as well. "If there is a problem, you need to deal with it immediately, not sweep it under the rug so it can fester and turn into a long-term issue," Mr. Carrera says.
4. Host activities for additional physician exposure. Mr. Carrera says the most effective way to physicians engaged is to provide great customer service. He encourages administrators to find ways to recognize and engage physicians outside their time in the OR. For example, he says his centers frequently host seminars to give their physicians added exposure to the community.
"We hold seminars in the lobby — maybe a foot clinic for a podiatrist or a talk from orthopedics – to drum up recognition for the physician's practice," he says. When the center adds a new physician, he recommends leadership host a reception for the new surgeon in the ASC lobby. These gestures cost little money for the facility and go a long way toward showing physicians that they're truly appreciated.
5. Allow physicians to perform less profitable cases on occasion. An ASC can't consistently perform unprofitable cases without losing money overall, but that doesn't mean your center should reject every less-profitable case, says Dean Brown, MBA, CASC, CEO of Alabama Orthopaedic Clinic and administrator of The Orthopaedic Center at Springhill in Mobile, Ala. His surgery center tries to look at the totality of a physician's case load rather than nitpicking each individual case. For example, if a physician brings nine profitable cases to the center and wants to perform one less profitable case, the center can accept the tenth case as long as the loss does not offset the earnings provided by the other cases.
He says this approach helps boost physician loyalty, which in turn contributes to center profits. "There are sports medicine cases that we lose a little bit of money on, but if the physician is bringing [overall profitable cases], we don't force them to take one case somewhere else," he says. He says this approach does not work if your center is too lenient with unprofitable cases. For example, a spine surgeon who wants to bring only unprofitable cases will not be suitable for the center.
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