5 Tips for Running a Top Orthopedic PracticeWritten by Laura Miller | June 23, 2011
Here are five tips for orthopedic practice leaders striving to stay at the top of the market.
1. Delegate responsibilities and make sure there are processes for catching mistakes. Though physicians are capable of tackling practice management and billing responsibilities, it is inefficient use of the physician's time to deal with these types of issues. Physicians should entrust a capable individual(s) with practice management responsibilities or outsource these tasks in order to focus on providing the best treatment for their patients. "The trick is to make sure you're delegating to the right people. The policy of forcing everything to run through a central authority makes the company stagnate because it just isn't efficient," says Jay Nussbaum, CEO of Healthcare Watchdog, a medical billing and advocacy group with offices in New Jersey and California. "The doctor needs to learn to delegate both internally and externally. The doctor should be focused on medicine."
To avoid mistakes, split tasks among practice staff with some overlap in order to establish redundancy and ensure the tasks are completed accurately. This means staff members should establish a system of checking each other's work for mistakes. If tasks, such as billing, are done correctly, the practice saves money.
2. Develop good interpersonal skills. Patient satisfaction is about more than good outcomes and if surgeons don't have excellent interpersonal skills, the patient will often be dissatisfied regardless of the outcome. "Have good bedside manner and make sure you have good people on the phones," says Peter Althausen, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Reno Orthopaedic Clinic and chairman of the board of directors of The Orthopaedic Implant Company. "We established a code of conduct to make sure patients are treated appropriately." Surgeons should introduce themselves when they enter the patient's room, smile at the patient and stand without their arms crossed when engaging in conversation. Use appropriate language to discuss the patient's treatment and make sure they understand every step of the process. "These things really make patients feel better," he says.
3. Build a reputation within the community and nationally. Rothman Institute sets aside resources for a significant marketing budget. "When we go into different communities or enter into alliances with health systems and hospitals, we want people to know we are there," says Todd Albert, MD, spine surgeon and president of Rothman Institute in Philadelphia. "It's helpful to have the brand circulated in the media, such as in newspapers or on the Internet." He also encourages Rothman Institute physicians to hold educational events and attend community events to spread practice awareness.
Beyond marketing to the patient base, it's also important for physicians to be recognized by their peers. One way to accomplish this is by engaging in academic research, publishing papers and attending professional conferences and meetings. "We think it's really important for our physicians to be as academic as possible," says Dr. Albert. "Our physicians speak nationally to other professionals. It helps differentiate our center as having really good surgeons who are also academically interested and full of knowledge about orthopedics."
4. Incorporate appropriate new technology. Orthopedics is a fast-moving specialty and profitable practices stay abreast of the new technology available for their patients. "One of the exciting things in orthopedics is the rate of technological development, particularly with joint replacements," says Jeffrey Meisles, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Orthopedic Specialists in Elmhurst, Ill. However, adopting new technology can be costly. Research the technology and make sure it offers a clinical advantage that outweighs the extra cost before incorporating it into your practice. Even if the implants or equipment for the procedure are more expensive upfront, they can reduce costs later by shortening the length-of-stay at the hospital, decreasing rehabilitation time or eliminating the need for revision surgery. "As long as there's an ability to improve patient outcomes, and increase efficiency, there's a potential that the new technologies can actually lower the cost of some procedures," he says.
5. Contribute to evidence-based medicine. "Evidence-based medicine in a private practice setting is compelling, but has unique challenges other institutions may not encounter as frequently," says Scott Trenhaile, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Rockford (Ill.) Orthopedic Associates. "There are a lot of patients who are treated in private practice settings that aren't reported on in the studies at larger facilities and that's an important aspect that we need to consider pushing forward. There's another side to the story that will contribute significantly."
One of the biggest challenges private practice surgeons face when practicing evidence-based medicine is data collection and organization. Surgeons don't have time to input patient information multiple times into different databases and most practices don't have the resources necessary to hire another employee for this type of data management. However, implementing electronic medical record systems takes data input from the surgeon and organizes it in several different ways simultaneously. "We record the data like we would in the ordinary, every day process of seeing the patient," says Dr. Trenhaile. "We collect the data on the front end so it can be extracted later electronically. That's how private practice practitioners can contribute on a grand scale."
Related Articles on Orthopedic Practices:
4 Branding Approaches for Orthopedic Practices to Beat Competitors
4 Upgrades to Optimize Orthopedic Practice Waiting Rooms
5 Things to Know About Online Orthopedic Practice Promotion
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