Q&A With Dr. Joseph Stapleton, Anesthesiologist, Pain Physician and Partner at East Portland Surgical Center in OR

Joseph Stapleton, MD, is an anesthesiologist, pain physician and a partner at East Portland Surgical Center in Happy Valley, OR.

Q: Last year was a challenging financial year for many surgery centers. What were some of the key steps you took in 2008 and 2009 to see annual returns of 300 percent and 750 percent respectively?

Dr. Joseph Stapleton: In 2008 and 2009 we were in the process of adding additional spine surgeons and of course their cases to our center. This minimized the impact of the economic downturn. In addition we were very careful with our staffing levels and equipment purchases. We had our scheduling staff reach out to our partners and non-partners doing cases at the center to ease scheduling of their cases. We worked to decrease turnover and increase efficiency to create an environment that helped our physicians be more productive

Q: Is there a single initiative your center has undertaken that you are particularly proud of and has proven to be financially beneficial to your ASC?

JS: The most important thing that we have done is to add spine cases to the center. It has been a part of our center for the last four years, but as our experience has grown and the comfort levels of our staff and physicians have grown we have been able to increase our volume in this area.

Q: What plans do you have this year to continue to grow profitability and improve efficiency?

JS: This year after partnering with USPI and Legacy Health System we are looking to add additional physicians and finish out an additional OR to increase our case load.

Q: What other exciting initiatives are you undertaking?

JS: We are developing a new program for outpatient total knee replacement modeled after the successful program at Duke University utilizing home health and continuous femoral nerve blocks for pain control

Q: Many surgery centers do not have anesthesiologists as owners. As an anesthesiologist, along with a pain specialist, what perspective and expertise do you think you bring to the center that differs from the other physician-owners and makes your ownership stake valuable to the success of the center?

JS: In the initial ramp up phase of a surgery center as an anesthesiologist I was able to provide back up for our anesthesiologists should there be problems in recovery or there was a need for assistance for intubations, etc. As the center has grown and we have three anesthesiologists, that need has diminished.

Q: You've had very strong returns over the past several years. What made you and the other owners in East Portland Surgical Center decide that it was still worthwhile to sell 50 percent of the ASC at the start of this year?

JS: We felt that partnering with a health system/national surgery center management company would be an opportunity to add additional health plans that could come to the center and since the buyers had additional shares to offer to new owners, we could add new partners at a level that we wouldn't have considered with our original partnership. It was also an opportunity to take some chips off of the table and we are working to grown our volume so that we can continue distributions at the same level as before. Already we have gotten distributions at about 65-70 percent of pre-sale.

Q: As an ASC owner, what advice would you offer other physicians interested in starting or investing in an ASC?

JS: The best advice regarding the surgery center business is to make patient care and satisfaction the number one priority and everything else will follow. Our original partner Blue Chip Surgical believes that and it has proven true.

Learn more about East Portland Surgical Center.

Thank you to Blue Chip Surgery Center Partners for arranging this interview.

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