For independent medical practices, particularly those focusing on spine and orthopedics, lower reimbursements and increased operating expenses are tightening margins and challenging physician owners to differentiate their practice while keeping costs low. In response, many physician owners have turned to ancillary services.
At Becker's 16th Annual Future of Spine + The Spine, Orthopedic & Pain Management-Driven ASC Conference June 14 in Chicago, James Lynch, MD, spinal neurosurgeon and founder of SpineNevada, discussed how ancillaries can help independent orthopedic and spine practices survive in an increasingly competitive market.
Dr. Lynch specializes in complex spine surgery, cervical disorders, degenerative spine, spinal deformities, trauma, tumor infection and minimally invasive spine surgery.
Here are four quotes from Dr. Lynch on independent practices and ancillaries:
1. Distinguish your practice to gain a competitive advantage. "Physicians have to make their specialty their passion. If you don't take your passion and innovate and create distinction and a competitive advantage, you'll become irrelevant. Physicians have a lot more control than they're led to believe — hospitals and insurance companies dictate price, but physicians dictate the care the patient receives."
2. Learn from hospitals, beat them on specialty care, cost. "Hospitals have become our partners. If you provide the specialty services hospitals need, they're less likely to alienate you. More importantly, independent practice owners should look to physician leaders, executives and payers to learn their language and what they need."
"Hospitals have offered ancillaries all along, and they can compete in the market because they have these services, so independent practices should be working to distinguish themselves through these specialties because they can provide them at a higher quality for a lower cost."
3. Keep up with the balancing act of offering high quality and satisfaction at a low cost. "To have high satisfaction, you have to have quality, but you also have to reduce cost. It's a continuous, evolving balancing act, but the reality is we can offer better service and a better experience for the patient at a lower cost."
"For example, if you work with physical therapists in your practice, you will be less likely to suggest surgical procedures for patients, and this ancillary service can save money for your practice."
4. Teach your patients. "When the ACA went into effect, instead of healthcare reform, it became insurance reform. But it should have been an education reform. As independent practice owners that have the opportunity to give patients a high value, high satisfaction experience, we need to be teaching patients they don't need to go to the emergency room for a cut finger, and we need to get them to focus on getting care in the right facility. In all this reform, we lost sight of getting patients to focus on primary care, and that's the most important thing."