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5 Tried & True Tactics for Attracting Physicians in an Age of Hospital Integration: 2 Surgery Center Administrators Weigh In

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Physician recruitment is a large factor in ambulatory surgery center growth. New physicians bring new cases and open up the possibility of adding new procedures, specialties or investment. Physician recruitment is undeniably attractive for surgery centers, but many centers are struggling to draw new physicians.

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Healthcare is experiencing a collective move towards consolidation. As physicians are shifting towards hospital employment, surgery center administrators consider what works and doesn't work for attracting new surgeons. Linda Phillips, RN, administrator of Southgate (Mich.) Surgery Center, and Jenny Morris, administrator of Stateline Surgery Center in Galena, Kan., share how they have successfully recruited physicians at their centers.

Jenny Morris1. Put in the necessary time. Bringing new physicians to an ambulatory surgery center is not a speedy process and expecting instant results will end in disappointment. The process from start to finish can take up to two years in some cases. "I have recruited many surgeons over the years and find the hardest part is getting them though the doors," says Ms. Morris. Surgery center administrators and leaders that consistently reach out to physicians beyond their center's doors will yield better results.

2. Involve the whole staff. Ms. Morris involves her whole staff in the recruitment process. "It does pay to make calls to the surgeon's office or pay a lunch visit to a prospective surgeon's office. I schedule lunch with the entire staff (you need their help to get credentials, preferences, etc.) and take my director of nursing along to answer any clinical questions that are outside my scope of knowledge," says Ms. Morris.

Surgeons are able to become familiar with a surgery center's leadership and staff all before even entering the facility. Once surgeons are in the door, they can begin to see the benefits of performing cases at the surgery center. Ms. Phillips points out that the process is more often long because of the time spent convincing surgeons to use the facility, rather than the credentialing process.

3. Target the right physicians. Since hospital integration is such an overarching trend in healthcare, surgeons in practices being bought or targeted for acquisition by hospitals are unlikely candidates for ASC recruitment. Physicians outside of this scope are a better option for recruitment efforts.

Depending on the market, surgery center leaders may not only have hospitals as competition. Oftentimes, surgery centers are in competition with one another. Though this adds to the battle for new physicians, it also creates an opportunity. If any physician becomes unhappy with a leadership change at a competing center, they may be candidates for performing cases at a different ASC.

Linda Phillips4. Offer attractive options. The best way to outshine competition is by being the most attractive offer. When Ms. Phillips first stepped into her role as administrator, her center had one specialty, one surgeon and one operating room. She helped to expand the OR and recruited three additional ophthalmologists. Those three surgeons were offered shares in the center. From 2000 to today, the center has grown from one surgeon to 21, expanded to four ORs and added gastroenterology and pain management procedures. "Every quarter we have distributed shareholders checks," says Ms. Phillips.

At Stateline Surgery Center, Ms. Morris says the entire staff makes an effort to welcome physicians on their first day. "The surgical services director ensures success in the OR room by having the physician's preference card complete prior to his arrival," she says.

Small courtesies like this go a long way. "I try to keep my finger on the pulse of surgeons' wants," says Ms. Phillips. Surgery centers that offer an optimal operating environment will have better luck both recruiting and retaining physicians. An experienced staff and lightning quick turnover time are two of the best ways to create the ideal OR for surgeons. Quick turnover time is not only more convenient, but allows for more cases to be performed. Both the physician and surgery center benefit from the revenue gained from additional cases.

5. Treat your physicians as customers. Ms. Phillips works on the understanding that physicians are valuable assets for a surgery center. In the past year alone she has recruited three new physicians. "If you treat your surgeons well, the best recruiting method is other surgeons who brag about your facility to others," says Ms. Morris.

Physicians are the lifeblood surgery centers. "Obviously, every year there seems to be a reduction in reimbursement, so volume is always good for our bottom line," says Ms. Phillips. New physicians can drive this volume. Catering to physicians during the recruitment process and after builds a surgery center's case volume and level of attraction to new surgeons.

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