What are some strategies ASCs might utilize in recruiting new physician users for syndication?

Recruiting new physician users to a surgery center, especially in this mature market is a stressful and strategic process. Approach recruitment and retention as one and the same. You need to be recruiting your current doc in order to retain them because if you are not, someone else is. Additionally, when you are recruiting new doctors you need to approach it with retention in mind. In other words, you need to make sure that everyone understands that this is a partnership and that you will be hopefully be working together for a long time to come. Thus work hard to ensure that everyone is treated as special.

We have a two avenue approach to this process. 1) We work with existing partners and physicians that utilize the center to develop an ongoing target list, gleaned from their knowledge of available physicians (or knowledge of physicians that will know who should be on our radar, such as anesthesiologists, they seem to be in the know and are great resources), and 2) We will create a mass list of all the potential physicians and surgeons that are seeing patients in the center’s market area. We will market all identified physicians through the avenues discussed above.

One of the greatest assets in recruiting new physicians is the mindset and commitment of the current physician base. This support can take form in a variety of ways, including speaking with new recruits, giving tours, attending new recruit open houses, going on physician visits, attending recruitment dinners, making phones calls, and/or agreeing to be part of a letter-writing campaign.  The role of current individual owners will depend on their personalities and comfort level, but nonetheless all owners should accept – as part of their ownership mindset – the responsibility to be part of the recruitment process. The role can range from sharing names of potential new recruits to being the champion recruiter.

An agenda item at almost every board meeting should be: recruit surgeons to surgery center. During discussion of this item, physicians should identify which physicians the ASC should be reaching out to. Ask physician-owners to come prepared to put forth a few names of physicians and a little background — if known — so that the designee responsible for recruitment can pursue that physician in coordination with the physician partners. Part of the ASC’s plan should be to have a continually updated target list of physicians in the community that should be contacted and a list of physicians coming into the community for future consideration.

All owners and staff should be walking billboards for the center to their practice partners and other colleagues, as well as keeping an eye out for surgeons who could become future owners or who could bring cases to the center now. It’s very important that the owners have a compelling “elevator pitch” that briefly highlights the center’s unique benefits and conveys its message. Everyone will be able to use this speech at medical meetings, continuing education courses, or even in the lunch line at the hospital.

Physician-partners should introduce themselves to physicians that are new to the area on a regular basis. The partners should tell these prospective investors and partners about the surgery center, noting that there could be an opportunity for them to utilize and invest in the ASC. They can encourage the new-to-the-area physician to talk with current physician-owners of the center. Physicians can quickly create an open door to recruits just by picking up the phone and introducing themselves.

Don’t just focus on high-dollar surgeons or the busiest surgeons; a physician who does 15 pain cases a month could eventually get to 60 cases a month and these providers are often easier to work with. 

The local administration staff at the center should also watch newspapers and local magazines ads for announcements of new physicians coming to the area.
Surgery centers proactive in their recruitment efforts often provide their physicians with printed information — such as brochures — about their ASC to help with the elevator speech mentioned earlier. Some provide recruitment cards, which are similar to business cards but have the highlights of the ASC printed on the back of the card. These are small and easy for doctors to carry around.

ASCs can also consider using a consistent, direct mail campaign to prospective physicians that alternate between letters from the partners, to brochures, to postcards, all with the end-goal of keeping the surgery center on the minds of the physicians that you are recruiting. This is what we call the vitamin approach or drip marketing. This process sometimes has immediate results but it is designed to improve the other activities over time.

While some of the best leads and referrals come from the current surgeon owners, the most successful surgery centers also tap into other sources such as anesthesia providers, traveling pharmacists and equipment and implant vendor representatives who are in position to provide leads. They can be your eyes and ears. Most people are willing to help — you just need to ask, and ask often. Be persistent.

The healthcare economy demands that we all look at our business differently and, where practical, find better ways to increase surgical volume.  Create a direct-to-patient marketing program. If you have patients that you can refer to the physicians they will be more receptive to doing procedures in your center. This is the next wave in the ambulatory surgery center development.  This can involve making and regularly updating a website, conducting search engine optimization, posting ads in the local newspaper and magazines, billboards, speaking with the larger employers etc. to build patient traffic.

The success of the outpatient surgery centers requires a total “all hands on deck” approach, Complacency and the wrong mindset is a major contributor of the under performance of the surgery center, and the center’s top priority is to ensure that the partners and providers are always engaged.

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