What 3 spine surgeons wish they knew before going into practice


Small-business skills and dealing with insurance companies are a few of the things three spine surgeons said they wish they had been taught before going into practice. 

Question: What is one thing you wish you knew before becoming a spine surgeon? 

Peter Derman, MD. Texas Back Institute (Plano): Being a spine surgeon, especially in private practice, means running a small business. Patients are our customers, and providing a consumer-friendly environment is extremely important for patient satisfaction, retention and outcomes. Seamless customer service should extend through every interaction patients have with clinical and administrative staff. Along similar lines, marketing can help elevate a modern surgical practice. Social media and proactive communication with referral sources are tools surgeons can use to promote their practices without breaking the bank. 

Dr. Kornelis Poelstra. Allegiant Spine Institute (Las Vegas): Before going into practice and to become a successful spine surgeon, I wished that training programs would have focused at least some on the business aspect of medicine, and the ever more challenging coding and reimbursement climate we are facing. Many of us become small business owners starting out in our practices and unfortunately have insufficient knowledge about the business aspect of practicing medicine. Apart from the terrible pre-authorization process and the bullying by insurance companies to prevent us from properly taking care of the patients that are sitting every day in front of us, the human resource component and employee management part of the practice requires so much attention nowadays. We have no knowledge about how any of that works in the real world at the end of our training. 

All of us had to learn on our own and trial by fire to eventually build our successful business into an all-round satisfying profession.

Although in the end, still very much worth it!

Issada Thongtrangan, MD. Abrazo Hospital-West Campus (Phoenix): I wish they taught me the business side of medicine in the residency or the fellowship. The business side of medicine is very important, especially being an independent surgeon. You are basically a small business owner and at the end of the day, you want your practice to thrive.

I wish I knew that the referrals are mostly networking or connection you have with your peers unless you are in a big group/organization that accepts all insurances. It is all about who you are connecting with. Thanks to social media platforms, direct communication with prospective patients is more efficient, at least in my practice. I did not have a social media platform at the time I was in training. Now, not only do patients find me on those platforms, but also I can educate the patients.

I wish I knew that there are lots of hours spent to be compliant with all the rules and regulations that seem to increase each year while the reimbursement is going down.

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