For ASC administrators, developing a positive relationship with physicians and opening lines of communication are crucial for maintaining smooth operations.
However, this simple task isn't always so easy. Physicians are busy between their practices, hospital cases and other professional responsibilities in addition to their families and personal lives. Administrators also have several responsibilities — whether they're reviewing benchmarks, negotiating contracts or managing staff. It's difficult to connect and make sure surgeons have a positive experience at the center.
There are a few easy strategies for administrators to keep the surgeons informed and engaged without wasting any time and making sure their experience at the ASC is so good they bring as many cases as possible to your center. Here are a few tips for upgrading the surgeon experience:
• Connect on preferences before surgeons begin bringing cases to the center; staff members should know what each surgeon prefers and have those materials ready for their cases the day before surgery.
• Ensure preauthorizations are done and monitored when surgeons first start bringing cases so the center will be able to collect and you'll avoid uncomfortable conversations about cases cutting into the center's bottom line.
• Assign the same staff members to assist surgeons for each case to promote consistency. These staff members will know the surgeon's style and make sure their preferences happen every time.
• Communicate with all physicians, whether they are high volume or low volume in the center; whether they are investors or not.
• Improve efficiency whenever possible so surgeons can bring in as many cases as possible during their scheduled time. Room turnover is especially important for surgeons so they don't have any downtime between one case and the next.
• Note important dates for the surgeons — such as their birthdays — and send a card signed by all staff members to the surgeon's home.
• Thank surgeons personally for bringing cases to the center.
• Make it easy for physician office schedulers to reach your ASC and schedule surgeries. Meeting with the schedulers face-to-face and building a relationship with them as well shows your commitment to the surgeons and their professional endeavors.
"I think of my surgeon as my number one customer and if I can run the surgery center so they're finished by noon, that's great," said Brainerd Lakes Surgery Center Administrator Sandi Berreth. "My surgeons expect to be taken care of and that's what I do. I focus on the people and make sure they are happy and healthy and taken care of while they're at work."
Communication is a second key to the surgeon's experience. Some administrators keep an "open door" policy for surgeons to express thoughts or concerns at their convenience. Others visit the surgeon "break room" or circulate in the center to talk face-to-face with the surgeons and ask them for suggestions to improve. Even just having a smiling face greeting the surgeons and wishing them well at the end of their day can make a big difference.
For daily news updates about the center, ASC administrators use several different tactics to keep their surgeons informed. E-mails or text messages can personally deliver the information. To ensure the surgeon doesn't skip over an important message thinking its junk mail, have your messages show up in their inbox with a different color and keep emails brief so crucial points aren't skimmed over.
For the best results, ask each search which method — text, email, phone call or otherwise — they'd prefer to receive these news updates about the center. This might include a policy change, updated regulatory information or equipment changes. When you have bigger news or decisions, waiting until a board meeting or holding an emergency board meeting may be in order.
Present physicians with statistical information about the center's financial and operational performance in chart form. Physicians often appreciate bullet points with the most important nugget of information to analyze the data, explaining implications of the raw numbers at hand. Communicate the prior agenda in advance, and when possible set an ending time to avoid drawing out issues more than necessary.
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