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The Surgeon's Office Staff: A Valuable Asset to the Hospital

Posted by Tom Blasco, M.D. on May 29, 2018 11:51:42 AM
Tom Blasco, M.D.

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Hospitals are always looking for ways to improve both the quality and net revenue of their most profitable area; Surgical Services. One key area that is often overlooked in the search is building a stronger, more collaborative relationship with the surgeon’s office staff. Typically, the office staff manages their surgeons’ schedule but also tends to have great influence over patient scheduling and preparation. Creating a relationship with this staff will not only lead to efficiency and productivity, but also to an improvement in an operating room’s quality of care. It’s a win-win situation!

In order to build a successful, mutually beneficial relationship with the surgeon’s office staff, it’s important to understand in which areas they can have a substantial impact.

These areas typically include:

Scheduling: Staff members are vital to improving the accuracy of scheduling, thus avoiding the expensive last minute ‘fire drills’ that occur with mis-scheduled surgeries. They also can be key drivers to improving the timeliness of elective scheduling. This allows more lead time for patient preparation leading to the process being more seamless.

Patient Charts: The surgeon’s office staff has a significant influence on timely patient chart completion, containing their surgeon’s H&P, orders and consents. With their help, incomplete patient charts can be a thing of the past.

Patient Preparation: Working with the office staff to improve patient preparation by having a mutually agreed upon patient triage and preparation system will reduce inconsistent and inadequate preparation. This will ultimately lead to improvements in both outcomes and costs.

Block Time:  Staff members can work with the hospital and the surgeon to improve a surgeon’s use of her or his reserved time and block time while avoiding, when possible, non-block scheduling of elective cases.

Competitive Environment: In addition to all these benefits, creating a positive bond with the surgeon’s office staff will promote the use of your hospital’s surgical services over competitors.

The hospital must take the lead in building this improved affiliation. For most hospitals, patient scheduling and preparation has largely been left in the hands of the surgeon and his office staff, which has led to significant variation and process issues. Hospital reestablishing ‘ownership’ of this relationship is essential in building a more centralized and consistent approach to patient pre-operative scheduling, preparation and throughput.

How does the hospital accomplish this?

Rebuilding the System: Working closely with all departments including, office staff, scheduling, patient preparation, anesthesia, admitting and the OR to conceptually rebuild your current system into an ideal model of best practice and streamlined process.

Defining Metrics: It is important to set the standard for the metrics that are used to monitor progress including, cancellations, chart completion percentage and mis-scheduled cases.

Scheduling: Agreeing on and sticking to one approach to scheduling is vital to success. The hospital should choose between the many options including fax and web-based scheduling and be sure to include early notification of the OR, patient preparation unit, and admitting.

Patient Triage and Preparation: Anesthesia should be tasked with having close oversight with universally agreed upon guidelines and algorithms, limiting variation and inconsistency.

Trial: A pilot of the new system with selected offices is best accomplished before system-wide roll-out.

Town Hall Meeting: Once the new system is designed and a successful pilot completed, we recommend conducting an office manager/scheduler’s town hall. In this meeting there should be a presentation of the updated system, along with documentation that includes guidelines, processes and contact information. These meeting should continue quarterly to evaluate the success and address any issues that arise throughout the new process.

As you can see, building a closer relationship with your surgeon’s office staff can produce significant improvements in patient and surgeon satisfaction, which is closely related to an improved value of care. With the hospital spearheading the effort and everyone working together, not only will your efficiency and bottom line improve but your newly established, collaborative relationship with surgeon’s office staff will prove to be a valuable asset leading to continued success.

 For more great information about working with your surgeon's and their staff, check out this blog post: Five Things a Hospital can do to Improve the Surgeon's Experience

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