Challenges in Spine Practice Management: Q&A With Laser Spine Institute Executive Director Lester Morales

Practice Management

From marketing responsibilities to patient and physician satisfaction, the many responsibilities connected to managing spine practices present constant challenges to today's practice administrators. Lester Morales, executive director of the Laser Spine Institute in Scottsdale, Ariz., discusses the challenges associated with his job and best practices for finding solutions to the everyday challenges of running a practice.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of managing a spine practice?

Lester Morales:
Wearing multiple hats. As an executive, I play the roll of administrator and sometimes the roll of CFO. We do a lot of marketing, so I have to put on the marketing hat and then I have to put on the human resources hat when HR situations come up. Being able to balance that effectively while still making sure I'm keeping up patient and physician satisfaction is important.

Q: What are the best practices for maintaining patient satisfaction at a spine center?

LM: A lot of our patients travel from out of the state or country and when they get here, they want as much time with the physician as possible. We try very hard to deliver that. Our physicians see their patients an hour after the surgery. They sit down and talk with the patients about the procedure and post operative treatment. You always want to be listening to the patient. Without patients, you're not going to be successful.

We also looked outside of the medical field at other companies for their innovation as far as capacity utilization goes. We went through a customer-centric training program and learned how to treat our clients in order to be able to produce a customer-centric society at our facility. We often have great surgical outcomes, but that's one thing we can't always control. We can control the experience the patient is having with us.

Q: What are best practices for maintaining physician satisfaction within a spine center?

When you're dealing with a spine, you're dealing with a very sensitive part of the body. We support our physicians from an emotional, technical and innovative standpoint. Spine right now is very hot as far as orthopedics go and there's so many new technologies out there. We encourage our physicians to learn about new products and have training to perfect or add techniques for their surgery. We try to stay with the times and be the spearheads in the orthopedic and spine realms.  

Q: How can a spine surgery center most effectively cut overhead costs?

Don’t keep access inventory in stock. Proper utilization of the supplies is key. We make sure we're bringing in the supplies we need for each case every week but not much more. The physicians make sure they don't open supply packages until they need its contents so nothing is wasted. Cutting our inventory only to the weekly necessity was a change in mentality for the staff. We slowly progressed into a keeping only a proper amount of inventory for the week.

Additionally, we employ flex staff instead of extra full-time employees to fill the hours when we're short handed, which is 10 to 15 percent of the time. Having an ample amount of flex staffing has helped out tremendously.

Learn more about Laser Spine Institute.

Read other coverage on orthopedic practice administration:

- 4 Tips to Prepare Your Practice for Change From Midwest Orthopaedics CEO Dennis Viellieu

- 6 Key Questions to Ask When Considering an Ancillary Physical Therapy Program at Your Practice

- 5 Tips to Improve Recruitment of Spine Physicians and Staff

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