1. Maintain a strong, open communications policy between the administrator and physician partners. Having frequent discussions with physician partners about the surgery center's priorities will enable the administrator to stay updated on the center's recruitment needs and anticipate changes, says Janet Gordon, administrator at Saint Luke's Surgicenter in Lee's Summit, Mo.
"We have 39 physician investors, and we've worked hard to maintain a good working relationship with them and their practices," she says. "When they get to the point where they're ready to start recruiting, we know about it soon in the process. While we may not be doing a lot upfront, it enables us to keep the conversation open and be available with information, to meet doctors and give tours of the facilities, and to fast-track credentialing in certain circumstances. It's really about trying to stay in tune with what all of our investor groups are doing."
Communication with physician investors at St. Luke's Surgicenter is maintained through regular board meetings and strategic planning, says Ms. Gordon. "Recently, for example, we had an extensive strategic planning process where we invited members from every physician group in the ownership for a meeting, and we talked about what we could do to help them."
2. Emphasize qualities that make the center efficient and accommodating. While a surgery center's reputation is important, demonstrating that the center is organized and well-run is also crucial, says Mr. King. "Even if the money was good, a physician will not be drawn to a center if it isn't ethical and well-run with great customer service," he says. "If outside surgeons know that, then they're probably knocking on the surgery center's door instead of the other way around."
One way to demonstrate a center's operational capability is to emphasize its efficiency, he says. If the center outsources an anesthesia group, for example, it is important to ensure that the anesthesiologists arrive on time. "The surgeons are going to value their time immensely," says Mr. King. "When they arrive, they want to make sure that they're going to work efficiently and with good specialists."
Accommodating requests for specific equipment is also attractive to prospective surgeons, because well-known surgeons will expect equipment that will enable them to perform the procedures on which their reputation is based. "If the center can show them that they can bring in equipment to makes their surgeries more efficient, that's a definite selling point," says Dale Rothenberg, executive vice president of DoctorsManagement.
3. Make sure the center is not associated with "difficult" employees. A "bad apple" in the center can complicate the recruitment process because physicians may not want to associate their business with him or her, says Mr. King. In particular, a surgery center's physician partner or administrator may develop a reputation among OR staff members who spend time in multiple centers, he says. "The OR staff knows which doctors are clinically talented and which ones aren't so sound, and this can influence the opinion of someone thinking about coming on board and joining the surgery center."
Additionally, an inflexible administrator would present a drawback to a potential recruit. "Oftentimes the administrators have many years of experience, but they need to be flexible," says Mr. King. "I talked to one ophthalmologist who was using a multispecialty center run by an administrator who would only allow him to get five or six cases done in the morning — the center was so structured, and the administrator was trying to run it more like a hospital OR than an ambulatory surgery center. So the physician went and started his own surgery center, and he now does 35 cases in the morning."
4. Harness the attributes of the surrounding area. Emphasizing the attractiveness of the surrounding community and region — including how the physician's family can seamlessly integrate into the community following a move — can give the surgery center an advantage in the recruitment process. Ms. Gordon says that the area's expanding population is often a draw for prospective physicians. "We're in an area that is very lucrative in that there's a lot of land, a lot of development and great demographics," said Ms. Gordon. "It's a booming area for residential and small business growth."
The surgery center is also close to an interstate and provides easy access to eastern Jackson County, an area with substantial residential and small business growth in recent years, she says. Emphasizing the location in a fast-growing region can be appealing for physicians with spouses and families seeking to adapt to new schools, jobs and activities.
5. Present patient testimonials to prospective surgeons. Patient testimonials are often an effective way to communicate the efficiency and quality of the ASC, which will not go unnoticed by potential physician investors during the recruitment process. "You could approach some of the physicians to nominate patients to talk about their experience — it's pretty easy to get testimonials from patients when they've had a 'wow' experience," says Mr. King.
In addition to discussing the quality of medical care, patients can also highlight any administrative or logistical factors, such as convenient parking, few stairs required to access the center, elevator access and online preregistration. Surgeons appreciate knowing their patients will have a good experience at the center.
Unique or memorable customer service practices can also build patient loyalty and boost the center's reputation, says Mr. Rothenberg. "One doctor told me about a surgery center where they were doing biopsies on women for breast cancer, and the administrator made it his duty to give a rose to women after the procedure," he says. "Women in that town didn't want to go anyplace else." In that case, says Mr. King, patients are more likely to spread the word and provide testimonials. "You're the surgery center in town that all the others want to be."
The best surgeons in town will take notice when their patients request your surgery center on a regular basis, and it won't be long before they become interested in making the investment.
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