by Kathy Williams Beydler, RN, MBA, CASC, CNOR

Your ASC is only as good as your staff – especially your surgeons. Which means that to gain a significant competitive advantage, your surgeons must be exceptional. Here are three key attributes to attracting the best and brightest to help your center stand out from all the rest.

Build a relationship with the surgeon

Begin with a one-on-one meeting with the surgeon you’re targeting for your center. Specify that the meeting will be no more than 15 minutes – and hold to that time frame, unless he indicates he’d like the meeting to go longer.

In this first meeting, ask the surgeon what his greatest frustration is in getting his cases done. This will help reveal your competitor’s areas of weakness – knowledge you can turn to your advantage by making sure your center is strong in those areas.

Second, ask the surgeon what he likes about where he’s currently working. By asking this question, you gain insight into what is important to the surgeon and can position your center to exceed his expectations.

I have yet to meet a surgeon that time was not his most valued asset. One of our surgeons had small children and said that every day as he put his garage door down, his goal was to see how quickly he could be back with his family. Working with the surgeon to make sure his time is spent more efficiently will result in a better partnering relationship.

Check in frequently with him to see how his cases are going and assess any changes that need to be made. Talking with him immediately after his cases, if at all possible, provides the best real time feedback. At a minimum, chat with the surgeon at least once a week. Once you have built the relationship, the surgeons can be your best recruiters for other physicians.

Build a relationship with the surgeon’s scheduler

For most surgeons, the scheduler is the gatekeeper for booking the cases. Establishing a rapport with this key person will provide you with a wealth of information about the physician and help you better understand the surgeon’s needs.

Identify his preferences and focus on how you can make your center his center of choice.

Visit with the scheduler every two weeks for the first few months, and then check in monthly to answer questions and address any concerns and/or issues that may have arisen.

Building a relationship with the scheduler can help foster the idea that it is easier and more productive to operate at your center than anywhere else. For instance, physicians and their office staff are often frustrated by the myriad chores they are required to perform. Make sure you:

Have a clear process for pre-admission testing requirements and patient admission criteria.

Reduce any requirements that are not necessary, for regulatory or patient safety issues. This will strengthen loyalty from the surgeon and staff. Some simple things:

For paper records, put ‘sign here’ stickers on each page the physician needs to review and sign.

For electronic records, look for ways to make it easier for the physician to quickly and methodically review and complete the records.

Overall, your aim should be to convince the surgeon and scheduler that your center provides the best care for the patients, simplifies the scheduling, and provides the professional environment that still meets all the regulatory requirements.

Focus on the surgeon’s experience at your center

Involve your staff. Having a consistent team working alongside the surgeon builds confidence in the center and places the surgeon more at ease in the new environment.

Let the surgeon know he will have the same team members as much as possible and that this team will be training others in time.

The surgeon will become more confident and comfortable as he sees the experience and the professionalism of your staff.

As the staff members demonstrate their understanding of the surgeon’s preferences, their critical thinking skills and ability to work through new challenges, the advantages of your center will increase the surgeon’s loyalty.

Involve your anesthesia providers; they can be a good marketing source for physicians. Anesthesia providers frequently service more than one site and may have both personal and professional relationships with other surgeons.

Our anesthesia providers were excellent in talking to physicians about the benefits of our surgery center and getting them to consider coming.

Once the patients and surgeons come to the center, anesthesia’s part in the process continues with timely assessment of the patients to allow for efficient turnovers. Anesthesia’s involvement and buy-in is critical to the flow and effectiveness of the center.

No detail is too small for insuring physician loyalty. Surgeon preferences extend beyond the operating room and can involve every aspect of the center experience. If your center provides snacks, for example, find out which ones the physicians prefer and have them available. One surgeon’s preference was for Hot Tamales candy — a simple item we could have on hand for him and something he looked forward to when he did cases at the center. The ROI for these gestures was incalculable. Remember the surgeon always has a choice – make sure your center is the one he chooses.

About the Author

Kathy Williams Beydler is the Director of Surgical Services at Regional One Health, a Level I Trauma Center in Memphis, Tenn. Previously, Kathy was the administrator of a start-up surgery center and transferred five years later to the flagship center in Memphis. She is a surveyor for AAAHC and especially enjoys the opportunities to teach during her surveys and encourage centers to become the best they can be.