Finding the perfect fit: 3 areas of focus when recruiting physician investors

Bringing in physician investors is an essential way for ambulatory surgery centers to bolster their case load in a volatile marketplace. But the decision to bring in new investors should not be taken lightly. It is critical to ensure that individuals offered the opportunity to become owners are a strong fit for your center.

arthur casey pic"It is not uncommon to see newly recruited physicians discover they don't like the equipment or get along with the other physicians and staff once they starting performing procedures at the ASC," says Arthur Casey, senior vice president of Outpatient Healthcare Strategies, a healthcare and surgery center consulting company in Houston, Texas. "When this happens, an ASC is now faced with having an owner who may not be dedicated to working at the center."

Here are three areas to focus on when recruiting physician investors to your ASC:

1. Physician personality. Make sure you weigh the physician's personality against your center's current physicians' personalities.

"I can't stress enough the need to make sure the physician investor being recruited fits into your center's partnership," Mr. Casey says. "There is nothing worse than having a great running partnership and then bringing in a personality that creates drama for the entire center. A center with a good partnership will be more efficient and profitable."

Having your physician partners on board is an important element when recruiting. Some partners may welcome younger physicians if they are nearing retirement, and may want to use the addition of new partners to cut down on their workload.

"Many older physicians who are patriarchs of the centers may want to start slowing down, and these new owners can pick up some of that business," Mr. Casey says. "You will want to make sure new physician investors are a good fit upfront so you can maintain the strength of existing partnerships. You don't want to create animosity amongst your group of owners."

2. Physician cost-effectiveness. ASCs are cost-effective in nature, which is a selling point for many physicians. When onboarding physicians, make sure their practices are aligned with the ASC's current investors.

You need to determine if the approach a new physician takes to surgery is cost-effective, both concerning instruments and supplies used during procedures as well as time spent performing surgeries, Mr. Casey says.

"A physician may not be a good fit if they take two hours to do a procedure that takes your other physicians only one hour," he says. "Taking the time necessary to perform a comprehensive analysis of how a physician will fit in to an existing center partnership is critical."

3. Appeal of ASC ownership. As an increasing number of physicians are being employed by hospitals, the number of opportunities for physicians to obtain ownership in facilities has declined, Mr. Casey says. Health systems often prohibit their physicians from holding ownership in an ASC unless the hospital runs the center.

While hospital employment may make it a bit more challenging for ASCs to recruit physician investors in certain markets, there are many physicians across the country looking for ways to remain self-employed.

"You still see a substantial number of physicians willing — and eager — to take a risk to keep their independence," he says. "It is important for ASCs to remember that they provide this very appealing avenue to do so."
To attract physicians, highlight the value of independence and appeal of ownership, including the ability for new physician investors to take an active role in the planning and direction of the ASC. You should also focus on the benefits of performing procedures in the setting.

"The reality is many hospitals are still much slower in terms of room turnaround and efficiency," he says. "The argument really comes down to whether the physician would prefer to tackle eight cases at a surgery center in the same amount of time it would take to do four cases at a hospital. Most physicians will strongly consider where they can maximize their time and profitability."

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