Orthopedic practices are having to focus on business needs more and more. However, they also have the challenge of balancing the business aspect of the practice with giving patients the care they need.
Some orthopedic surgeons find the business side of running a practice frustrating. After all, they went into practice to help patients, not to think about the complex aspects of running a business. However, though reimbursements for orthopedic procedures have decreased over the years, the expenses for running your practice have most likely not changed. Therefore, it’s critical to focus on the business side of your practice to keep it up and running.
On the other hand, orthopedic surgeons that are more business-minded may have trouble striking a balance between handling those business needs and still finding the time to provide great care to patients.
It is possible to find that balance, if you have the right systems and the right teams in place to make it happen.
The Importance of Developing the Right Systems
Dr. Ira Kirschenbaum, Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedics at BronxCare Health System, was one of the first guests on our Paradigm Shift of Healthcare podcast. Tasked with helping patients in the South Bronx, the poorest congressional district in the United States, get orthopedic care, Dr. Kirschenbaum had a lot of work ahead of him.
Dr. Kirschenbaum had previously been in private practice in a suburb of New York City, and had run a very successful practice there for many years. The challenge with joining BronxCare Health was getting these underserved patients in the South Bronx the same high-quality care patients in wealthier areas would get.
Establishing a Clear Process
One way that Dr. Kirschenbaum accomplished this goal was to engineer a clear process for every interaction the clinic had with a patient, from the moment they walk in all the way through booking the surgery and follow-up care. Every team member had a process to follow for every type of patient interaction.
Getting the Right Tools to Support Your Processes
Finding that the EMRs available on the market did not meet their needs in supporting these processes, they built their own cloud-based data tracking platform. The platform they built allows the clinic to track data about the patient, including their appointments, test results, and follow-ups–essentially, the entire “life cycle” of the patient’s care. The platform also allows the clinic to track revenue generated, patient outcomes, and complication rates, which are all critical to keeping the clinic running.
Support Clinical Efficiency
Dr. Kirschenbaum’s hospital treats over 400,000 patients a year. Their system enabled both excellent patient care, as well as clinical efficiency.
Maybe your practice doesn’t have to serve that large of a community, but these same principles apply. You can strike that balance between patient care and running a business if you take the time to put the right systems in place to help you achieve those goals.
Getting the Right Team in Place to Support Your Goals
The other part of the equation in striking that balance is getting the right teams in place. In Dr. Kirschenbaum’s case, that meant recruiting team members who were not only passionate about providing high-quality medical care, but also people who were committed to serving the community. Having systems in place to support your surgeons and employees is critical, but it’s equally as critical to employ people who are committed to upholding that system.
Assembling the Right Surgical Team
For Dr. Kirschenbaum, finding the right surgeons meant seeking out individuals who were highly skilled, yet also committed to the mission of improving the health of the community. Many of these surgeons could have gone and worked for any number of prestigious hospitals or healthcare groups, but chose to work for BronxCare Health System because they understood the clinic’s goals and wanted to help further that. As a result, a position in the BronxCare Health System orthopedic department has become a highly-sought job for like-minded orthopedic surgeons.
Finding the Right Office Staff
When you hire employees for your practice, it’s important to communicate your goals to potential employees, from surgeons all the way down to the people at your front desk. Are you really focused on community health? Helping an underserved community? Pioneering research in your field? The employees you hire should want to support those goals.
The surgeons you hire are a critical component, but so are the office staff that do not treat patients. They are the first and last people your patients interact with during every office visit, so they can really set the tone for your practice. Make sure your office can provide the experience you want your patients to have, while also understanding and helping to further the business goals of your practice.
Finding the Balance
It does take work to find the balance between patient care and running a business, but once you have clear goals laid out, you can get the right systems and the right people in place to support you. It’s not about running around trying to do it all on your own. It’s about making smart decisions about the systems you use and the people on your team. Look for systems that alleviate your workload and support efficiency, rather than adding more work for everyone. Look for employees that have the right attitudes and skill sets–including skills that you may not have yourself–and delegate work accordingly. When you do those things, it becomes much more attainable to find the balance you need.