5 Ways to Recruit More Quality ASC Physicians This Year

Physician recruitment is becoming more difficult, as surgery center markets become saturated and hospital non-compete agreements prevent employed physicians from investing elsewhere. Here are five tactics to recruit surgery center physicians to your facility in 2012.

1. Market to attract physicians whose professional fees have waned. Bill Gilbert, vice president of marketing at AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions, says physician investors may be struggling to make the same profit they used to as professional fees decline. A sound marketing strategy could emphasize the financial benefits of ASC investment. "This is a time for centers to market themselves to new surgeons," he says. "One way is to show the center's books to new surgeons and get them excited about the financial opportunities."

He says centers should keep an eye on facilities that close in the area and target those physicians for potential recruitment. "If another center down the road closed and the surgeons are talking about going to a center that's 20 miles away, and you have to go past your center to get there, you need to reach out," he says. "You need to show them what the upside is and use the data to show them your center will be a great financial return."

2. Involve ASC physicians in physician recruitment. Blayne Rush, MHP, MBA, president of Ambulatory Alliances, says physicians may respond better to recruitment by other ASC physicians. "Doctors know doctors, and often 'recruits' are identified by their colleagues," he says. "You sometimes increase your chances of bringing new physicians on staff when they already know someone at the surgery center. At the very least, physicians are good at identifying potential colleagues."

He says all physicians at the center should serve as "walking billboards" for the ASC to their colleagues and practice partners. The owners should be able to rattle off an "elevator speech" — a description of the center that takes about the same amount of time as an elevator ride — whenever they meet potential new investors. Physicians can also be used to give tours, attend new recruit open houses, make phone calls and write letters to potential utilizers, Mr. Rush says.

3. Place an experienced recruiter in charge.
Mr. Rush says he commonly sees surgery centers giving recruitment responsibility to a staff member with little to no experience in sales, marketing or recruitment. "This is an important role that needs someone who is tenured and has a history of success of speaking with physicians and recruiting," he says.
"Putting someone in charge who cannot represent the ASC in a positive, encouraging manner may result in the projection of a misleading or negative image of the ASC on prospective physicians."

Ideally, look for a staff member with sales or marketing experience or experience talking with physicians. The staff member should be personable and persuasive without being pushy or overly familiar. The staff member should also be very familiar with the "unique message" of the center in order to answer any questions the physicians may have about ownership or participation.

4. Emphasize a lack of bureaucratic obstacles.
Many surgery center physicians choose ASC investment or participation because of the freedom it affords them in making decisions and pushing through initiatives. In a hospital, a physician may have to deal with a number of policies or committees before receiving approval for a piece of equipment, for example. In a surgery center, such a decision can often be made through a conversation with the administrator. Kris Sabo, administrator of Pend Oreille Surgery Center in Ponderay, Idaho, says administrators should emphasize the stress-free nature of the ASC when recruiting new investors. "On the provider side, they're focused on the patient, and they don't want to have to worry about what's next," she says.

She gives the example of keeping physician preference cards updated. Instead of talking to the physician about updating his or her preference cards, talk to a trusted member of his or her office staff and make sure the listed supplies are up-to-date. Let potential physicians know that they won't have to deal with bureaucratic struggles in your ASC because you will treat them as a customer.

5. Look for physicians coming out of hospital employment.
Barry Tanner, president and CEO of Physicians Endoscopy in Doylestown, Pa., says surgery centers may be able to benefit from physicians leaving hospital employment. Hospitals have been employing physicians at increasing rates in the last few years, and some physicians may be realizing that hospital employment — with its limit on compensation and bureaucratic obstacles — is not for them.

"I'm [getting] some minor indications that [employment] might be swinging back in the other direction toward private practice," he says. "If that's true, employed physicians might have to move out of the area to break away from employment because of the hospital's non-compete policies." He says more and more hospitals are also experiencing financial challenges that jeopardize their ability to offer physicians a competitive salary. These factors may benefit surgery centers as more physicians become available for recruitment and investment.

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