5 Ways Orthopedic Surgeons Can Connect Better With Primary Care Physicians

Written by Laura Dyrda | September 27, 2011 | Print  |
Here are five ways for orthopedic surgeons to become more familiar with primary care referring physicians. 1. Host educational lunches for primary care physicians. One way to coordinate a face-to-face meeting with several primary care physicians in your area is to host an educational luncheon. Have each orthopedic surgeon give a presentation about their subspecialty, such as going over MRI for shoulder surgery or when to get epidural instead of recommending surgery for back problems. The lunch also fosters an environment where the physicians can get to know each other. "The surgeon is able to shake hands with the primary care physician and their staff," says Peter Althausen, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Reno Orthopaedic Clinic and chairman of the board of directors of The Orthopaedic Implant Company Bring the practice office manager to the lunches to ensure your practice will be easily accessible for the primary care physicians.

2. Send 'thank you' cards with patient updates. When a general practitioner or other physician refers their patient to you, keep them updated on the status of the patient, says David Shrier, CEO of HCPlexus, a company that maintains the "Little Blue Book" referral database for physicians. The referring physicians appreciate knowing how their patients are responding to treatment and following up with their medical conditions.

"Communicating about the patients helps the referring physicians feel good about the referral they just made," says Mr. Shrier. Keeping these lines of communication open with referring physicians strengthens your relationship with them and will encourage future referrals. You can also send "Thank You" letters to the referring physicians. "People don't get enough personal notes any more," he says. "This is going to help the referring physician feel like his or her patient is being taken care of." Include the practice name on the letter and address it directly to the referring physician to personalize the message.

3. Educate referring physicians on new technologies or procedures. If you become trained on a new procedure or technology, such as endoscopic spine surgery or computer-assisted knee replacements, contact your referring physicians and educate them about the technology. The referring physicians will feel more comfortable sending patients your way if they understand exactly how the new technology will benefit their patients, says Mr. Shrier.

Additionally, some primary care physicians are not experienced in reading x-rays from orthopedic injuries or providing treatment, such as casting, says Angie Van Utrecht, director of operations at Orthopedic Specialists in Davenport, Iowa. Practices should form relationships with primary care physicians by offering to give x-rays a second look and discuss patient diagnosis and treatment plans. If a primary care physician is familiar with your practice physicians, he or she will be more comfortable referring patients to the practice.

4. Market to the local hospital systems. In many communities, healthcare systems and hospitals employ primary care physicians, and if you want access to them, you must have a good relationship with the hospital. You can market your expertise to hospital administrators through statistics that show you have good outcomes and few complications. You can also present patient outcome reviews to accomplish this goal, says Dr. Althausen.

5. Improve office accessibility. Make sure your office is easy to access for primary care physicians. When they are referring patients to your office, they need to easily connect with your staff and schedule an appointment. This may mean creating a special line for primary care physicians to call that would bypass an automated system patients usually go through to reach your office. Make it easy for primary care physicians to schedule appointments for their patients, and both patients and physicians will have a better experience.

Related Articles on Orthopedic Practices:

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How Are Baby Boomers Revolutionizing Orthopedics? 7 Responses

Leadership During Hospital Alignment: 6 Points for Orthopedic Groups

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