Recruiting more surgeons to your ASC mean more cases, more revenue—and maybe more capital investments for your center. Plus, your ASC’s physicians can be an excellent recruiting tool, helping to identify and build relationships with potential physician recruits in your market. But that’s only if you can maintain long-term relationships—a strong physician retention strategy will help.
You might be focusing so much on recruiting physicians from outside your center that you forget that you can “recruit” internally, too.Treat your physicians well, and word will spread— but remember, the opposite is also true. If you focus all your efforts on recruiting new physicians, your existing physicians may feel neglected. To maintain profitability, ASC owners and administrators must focus on physician retention.
The Physician Retention Building Block
The facility-physician relationship cannot be undervalued, emphasizes Rena Courtay, who spoke about physician recruitment at the Ambulatory Surgical Center Association’s 2017 annual meeting. Your physicians need to “know they can count on you because if not, they’re going to be looking at another opportunity,” she notes. If your center has a lot of physicians, it will be challenging, but don’t neglect this essential task.
Aim for at least five meaningful interactions each week with your current physicians, Courtay suggests. This is not just a “hi” in the hallway, she warns—you don’t build relationships through cursory conversations. Meaningful interactions are how you find out what’s going on with your physicians (say, if they had a terrible day in the OR). You’ll eventually glean information that can help you boost your center’s performance, like what your physicians’ motivators and barriers are. If you engage the physician, you can work to eventually remove those barriers and build a more productive relationship.
Try this: Have non-clinical staff scrub in and observe surgeons in the OR. It’s where Courtay has had some of her best conversations, and the surgeons love to show off their skills. “They’re not exactly shy or they wouldn’t be a surgeon,” she notes. The lesson? Be creative in figuring out what works best to get the interactions that you need.
Support Goes Both Ways
If you have partnership agreements, your physician partners have a responsibility to your center, points out Courtay. “They need to support their center and not split cases with other centers,” she notes. Regularly ask yourself questions like:
- Who is and is not bringing enough cases to your center?
- Are physicians splitting cases?
- Are their equipment or instrument preferences not being met?
- Do they have block time issues?
- Are there staffing issues?
- Are you enforcing your partnership agreements? “Physicians get very upset when you allow others to stay in the partnership when they should have been bought out,” Courtay observes.
- What barriers can you overcome to get your current physicians to bring more cases?
Sample Script: Wondering what your physicians are thinking? Just ask! When you meet with your center’s physicians, make a habit of proactively asking questions to uncover possible barriers. Try asking “Is there anything we can do differently that will help you be more comfortable in bringing more of your cases to the center?” or “Are there any changes we can make that would help you increase your utilization of the center?”