Like all workers, anesthesiologists must determine the best ways to serve their “customers”—the hospital, surgeons, patients and bill payors. Although it is important to make each group happy, the “real” customers are the hospital administrators who renew contracts. Administrators should know your value and how your anesthesia practice is indispensable to the hospital.
“This is Marketing 101 for anesthesiologists,” said Amr Abouleish, MD, an anesthesiologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, who speaks nationally about the economics of anesthesiology care. Dr. Abouleish discussed marketing and branding strategies at the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) 2015 Practice Management conference, in Atlanta. He is a past chairman of ASA’s Committee on Practice Management.
“Perception is reality. You want to be the one who creates the reality of your practice,” he said. “If you don’t promote what you do, then someone else will create the perception of what you do.”
Anesthesiologists should follow age-old marketing advice: Identify customer needs, develop products to meet those needs and communicate those products to the customer. To do this, anesthesiologists must understand what the hospital needs and wants, Dr. Abouleish said.
“Simply giving anesthesia care in the operating room [OR] will not differentiate you from any other provider, and ignores everything else a hospital would like you to do,” he said. “You probably do more than that but might not even realize it. If you don’t, then how will the hospital?”
To be successful, anesthesiology groups must understand that hospitals expect anesthesiologists to improve OR throughput by tackling more cases, reducing turnover time and preparing for procedures on schedule. Hospital administrators want high-quality care that goes beyond the hospital’s quality management program. They will seek practices that save money and decrease cancellations through preoperative assessment, acute pain care and postoperative planning. Ultimately, hospitals want to avoid problems. Personality counts, and good anesthesiologists must be good communicators and facilitators who work well with both patients and surgeons.
“Do you stay at the anesthesia machine or even sit down during the case? Or are you tying the surgeon’s gown while the nurse preps the patient?” Dr. Abouleish asked. “Do you open a suture pack or answer the phone when the nurse is not in the room? Which anesthesiologist is viewed as being more valuable by the surgeon and the OR nurse?”
Anesthesiologists should also prepare to step into leadership roles. Internists may not understand surgeons and surgeons may not understand internists, but anesthesiologists are armed with the experience to talk to both.
“Show that you can get it done. Be a hard worker, facilitator and collaborator,” he said. “Communicate what you do every day to the hospital to make yourself indispensable.”