The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery just wrapped up its ASMBS Weekend in San Diego. This flagship event was jam-packed with information on the latest trends in improving patient experience, outcomes and growth for providers. Though much of the content shared throughout the conference was clinical, we wanted to highlight some key takeaways from the practice management track. This sector of healthcare is evolving rapidly and several surgeons shared key drivers that they have seen propel their practices into improved efficiency and revenue generation.
Enhance Your Digital Presence
With 80% of patients turning to digital channels to seek healthcare information, a robust online presence is critical to attracting and engaging them. Most providers have become adept at developing websites rich in information, but social media platforms represent opportunities for increased growth. After attending a session led by Dr. Neil Floch (@NeilFlochMD) about the use of Twitter and the role it can play in healthcare, one provider/attendee, Dr. Paul Davidson (@PaulDavidsonPhD), saw a single well-crafted strategic tweet generate more than 10,000 impressions.
Patients are more educated and empowered than ever before — they are talking to each other on social media, sharing stories, support and recommendations. Providers who are active on social media can increase engagement and increase the patient experience. They can become leaders in these conversations by creating their own closed Facebook groups that give patients a place to share information online. These can be viewed as virtual support groups that allow practices to create their own online communities, share clinical data, and help encourage and motivate patients.
Practices can also host special Twitter talks that give existing and prospective patients a user-friendly forum to ask questions and share information. Many practices find that it often makes sense to work with marketing professionals for help leveraging digital channels.
Online education sessions, such as video seminars, also keep patients engaged and reinforce the idea that they have made the right decision with the practice they have selected.
In his session Internet/Website Strategies to Maximize Your Practice, Dr. Sunil Bhoyrul of Olde Del Mar Surgical told attendees that using a professional to create an online seminar, despite a steep price tag, easily paid for itself and improved his quality of life. He got his personal time back by not having to conduct in-person seminars and it reduced his legal liability by being able to have reports and insights demonstrating that the patient watched the entire online seminar and took quiz questions that reinforced the material. He also echoed the suggestions of other speakers by indicating the value of working with a professional to market your program and build a high-quality online seminar.
Shift Healthcare Services In-House
Bariatric practices see 80% of overall patient spend related to treatment fall into the hands of hospitals. Moving these services in-house achieves two goals: it streamlines the process for patients and enables them to get all of the clearances they need for surgery in a single day. It also brings more of that overall spend into the practice.
Moving services in-house requires significant investment, but also provides rapid ROI. For example, a leading private-practice bariatric program spoke about the success they had after offering transnasal endoscopy services. This alternative to a traditional upper endoscopy doesn’t require sedation and can be completed in just five minutes. It also doesn’t require cleaning, so the time transitioning to the next patient is minimal. The practice calculated that it would need to perform around 250 TNE procedures to break even on its investment — it performed 1500 of the procedures in a 12-month period. That represents $420,000 in revenue, with about $360,000 in contribution margin. Patients love it, too, because they don’t have to go to a hospital, recover from sedation, and get driven home. The patient sits in an office chair with no sedation, just a numbing of the nose. The procedure can be completed along with all of their workup, allowing the patient to only miss one day of work. It’s more efficient and affordable to both the patient and the payer.
Not all streams of income require significant investment. Bariatric Advantage has a revenue-sharing model with its bariatric-specific, ASMBS-guideline based supplements. For several physicians that spoke about their experience, they realized over fifty thousand dollars in annual revenue, which has zero overhead and is straight profit. It can also mitigate liability issues related to vitamin deficiency and bone-loss issues, which is becoming common, suggested by Dr. Eric DeMaria in his presentation Liability: How to Choose Your Insurance Carrier, Avoid Lawsuits and Survive Them. As this article indicates, Texas Medical Liability Trust has “seen an alarming increase in the number of claims filed related to Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE) following bariatric surgery… involving allegations of failure to monitor thiamine levels in post-bariatric surgery patients and failure to treat symptoms… with thiamine supplementation.”
The list of services that bariatric practices can consider shifting in-house include bone density scans, ultrasound, blood tests and esophageal motility testing, among others. Practices can also enhance the patient experience and boost revenue by offering other ancillary services in-house. Sleep studies, medispas, and even cosmetic surgeries like arm and neck lifts can offer a sense of “one-stop shopping” for services that bariatric patients need or desire, pre-and post surgery. This helps keep patients in the surgery pipeline because it reduces the time it takes to get to surgery. Every delay in the medical clearance process can lead to patients dropping out of the process and electing not to have the surgery or seeking a different provider.
Service is as Important as Science
Patients have many options for healthcare and they know it. Great physicians understand the importance of bedside manner, and this notion extends to all aspects of a practice. Understanding how patients enter and exit the program is key to enhancing their experiences with services that generate goodwill and loyalty. It starts with something as simple as how your staff answers the phone the first time the patient calls.
This idea permeates the entire process. Practices should examine every aspect of the services they offer from the perspective of patients. Think of it like being a secret shopper. What services are valued by patients? An excellent example is insurance verification. This can be very complex for bariatric surgery, and a practice that relies exclusively on patients to verify their own coverage is putting a tremendous responsibility on the patient. Not verifying benefits results in a missed opportunity to provide a value-added service to the patient. It also leads to misinformation and patients wrongly thinking they have coverage or not understanding their true requirements for surgery.
Providers who take ownership of the entire journey and take steps necessary to ensure patients are educated and informed each step of the way are rewarded with evangelist patients that become brand ambassadors. As Dr. Teresa LaMasters said, “the number one source of new patients? HAPPY PATIENTS!”
What were your takeaways from ASMBS Weekend? Contact us today!