ASC Administrators & Physician Champions: The Relationship Every Successful ASC Needs

Jeff BairdJeffrey M. Baird, MBA, CMPE, administrator of Willamette ENT  and River Road Surgery Center in Salem, Ore., discusses why administrators need a physician champion in their ASC.

Ambulatory surgery center administrators are tasked with the large responsibility of ensuring that their ASC's operations are smoothly run and support a successful facility. This responsibility involves working with each member of an ASC's team, from the business office staff and front desk to nurses and surgical techs. One of the most important relationships an administrator builds is with the center's physicians.

However, it can be difficult to reach out to the clinical world of the ASC, so much of which is hidden behind operating room doors. "You can't interact with all ASC physicians all of the time," says Jeffrey M. Baird, MBA, CMPE, administrator of Willamette ENT and River Road Surgery Center in Salem, Ore. "ASC operations are complex and should not be underestimated. You need an insider and a physician champion as an effective way to achieve that."

Defining the physician champion
A physician champion is the bridge between an administrator and the entire physician team of an ASC. To be that bridge a physician will have not only exceptional clinical skills, but an aptitude for business as well. Administrators will often find that a physician champion relationship will organically grow from the interaction with a center's medical director.

Qualities of physician champion include:
•    Respect of peers and ASC team members
•    Excellent communication skills
•    Firm grasp of  human resources, accounting and financing
•    Ability to delegate

ASCs cannot afford the layers of administration and inefficiencies often found in hospitals.
An effective physician champion will use these skills to address operational concerns, such as cost and efficiency, but will also handle less tangible and politically colored issues amongst peers and ASC team members.

Physician champion in action
Mr. Baird serves as the administrator of an ambulatory surgery center and a clinic, a role he stepped into two years ago. He entered into an established center as the previous administrator was retiring. The center's medical director was already comfortably filling the position of physician champion. Mr. Baird did not have to struggle to make that connection.

"What I did have to do, and continue to do, is keep an open line of communication with him. I can't take that relationship for granted," says Mr. Baird.

During his time as administrator at his ASC, Mr. Baird has seen the value of a physician champion. Six ENT physicians, also shareholders, perform cases at the center, but the anesthesiology team is independent.

"One of the biggest challenges is bringing physicians that aren't shareholders to the table," says Mr. Baird. Through the combined efforts of Mr. Baird and the center's physician champion, the anesthesia team now regularly meets with the center's leaders. Through these meetings, the ASC leaders and the anesthesiologists have been able to align value sets and create a level of professional comfort.

Why every ASC needs a physician champion
Every ASC team holds regular meetings, but there are a number of voices at the table, each one with its own perspective. These meetings can involve physician partners, clinical directors, nurses and business office leaders; the people that make an ASC tick.

"There is a lot of push and shove at these meetings," says Mr. Baird. A physician champion can be present during policy-making meetings, lending a voice to the clinical team and the business team. The ultimate goal of any ASC is to reduce costs, improve operational efficiency and ensure quality. A strong physician champion and administrator relationship is fundamental to achieving these goals.

More Articles on ASC Issues:
8 Steps for ASCs to Identify & Grow Nurse Leaders
ASC Growth in 2014: Biggest Barriers & Best Opportunities From Administrators
5 Strategies for ASC Physician Recruitment Next Year

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