Engaging Surgeons: A How-To Guide

Having surgeons commit to bringing cases is one of the most important aspects of running a viable ambulatory surgery center. While ultimately surgeon-controlled, administrators are responsible for maintaining adequate case volumes at an ASC. Their efforts to do so are enhanced exponentially via effective communication.

"I think there can be a fear of the unknown," says Kelli McMahan, vice president of operations at ASC company Pinnacle III. However, there are ways to make the transition easier.

1. Give the grand tour. For new surgeons, helping them understand the benefits of the ASC is vital. "Schedule welcome meetings with them to tour the facility and meet the OR staff. Create frequent opportunities for them to be in the facility," she says. This tactic allows administrators to become familiar with surgeons and allows surgeons to familiarize themselves with what the ASC has to offer.

According to Ms. McMahan, having the surgeon return to the ASC several times is not unusual during the onboarding process. She suggests including a day when procedures are scheduled to facilitate the surgeon's observation of the center's workflow in action.

2. Find out what surgeons need. A personal level of attention is also required. "Initiate conversations with surgeons to find out what they need and how you can get it for them. If a surgeon is bringing a new specialty to your ASC, discuss what equipment is necessary to perform their cases, and identify their preferences. Engage them as much as possible," suggests Ms. McMahan.

3. Connect with the scheduler. An additional wrench in the works is a surgeon's scheduler. "When schedulers aren't used to scheduling at your facility, administrators have to engage them as well. Make scheduling as easy as possible for [schedulers], and connect with them frequently. If scheduling isn't easy, they'll schedule the surgeon elsewhere. Surgeons go wherever they're scheduled," says Ms. McMahan.

4. Identify obstacles. For surgeons who are already at the ASC and are not necessarily bringing expected or necessary caseloads, much of the strategy is similar. "Meet with the physician and ask about the rationale behind doing the majority of cases elsewhere," says Ms. McMahan. She recommends asking if there's something the center can do to facilitate a surgeon's cases, focusing on scheduling, equipment, workflow issues and any other of the surgeon's potential concerns. "Address anything he foresees as a problem," she adds.

5. Be proactive. Ms. McMahan recommends administrators perform regular facility and staff assessments to ensure all aspects of the ASC are well-run and efficient; that employees are happy; that equipment is in top condition; and that surgeons are comfortable with the resources at their disposal. "It really comes from the top down, that careful eye over the entire center," she asserts. "You have to make the physician's experience seamless, so he doesn't have to do extra work. It goes back to customer service — facilities have to remember physicians are some of their most important customers."

More Articles on Turnarounds:
Improving Patient Satisfaction, Compliance: 5 Strategies
Does Your Leadership Style Need to Change? 5 Signs
3 Tips for Emotionally Intelligent Management

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