Anesthesia practices occupy a unique niche within healthcare’s mergers and acquisitions (M&A) evolution. From your purview, most of your M&A interest probably involves anesthesia practices. But it is important not to lose sight of M&A activity that touches the broader areas of healthcare — for example, CVS/Aetna or Advocate Health Care/Aurora Health Care. While such activity may seem too large in scope to affect your day-to-day activities, it materially impacts the anesthesiology practice landscape. Making sure you are aware of what is going on around you is critical to proactive anesthesiology practice management.
Even when you do have a clear understanding of how the market is changing, too often practices make the mistake of simply sitting on that knowledge. Many are uncertain about what to do; others hope that by maintaining the status quo they can “ride out” the changes to come.
Our experience has shown that surviving in the current anesthesia environment requires an adaptive approach — even for practices that wish to remain just as they are. Practices need proactive strategies in order to remain relevant and thrive.
So, don’t sit back and wait until it’s too late. Here are six adaptive strategies for managing your anesthesia practice:
- Define your value proposition. Why is your practice more valuable than any other anesthesia option that your hospital or other facility might want to do business with? How can you make the anesthesia service relationship with your facilities “stickier”? Anesthesia practices need to frequently review the needs of their facilities, as well as clearly understand and be able to communicate their value to contracted facility leadership.
- Develop a tradition of collaboration with hospital leadership — not constant negotiation. Practices can bring a lot of value to their hospital partners by collaborating to help solve pressing problems. For anesthesiologists, that might mean developing pain protocols to help the hospital combat the opioid crisis, joining a compliance committee, or finding mutually beneficial ways to drive costs from the system. Key individuals within your practice should strive to serve in leadership roles within the hospital ecosystem to be visible in the event your practice goes through a transition. That way, the hospital doesn’t lose sight of your contributions and begin to look elsewhere.
- Get rid of existing inefficiencies. Practices should periodically review and address any facility concerns with their policies, procedures and staffing models, and ensure they demonstrate a collaborative and growth-oriented mindset. Remember this adage: If you don’t fix your problems, someone else will.
- Assess your internal leadership’s strengths and weaknesses honestly. It takes strong leadership to successfully navigate today’s fast-changing healthcare environment. So, analyze the gaps in your practice’s leadership skills. Address them either through leadership training, by recruiting new leaders who can bring necessary skills to the group, or by consulting with industry experts who can help round out your internal leadership team.
- Build strong relationships with those who gain the most from your anesthesia group: the surgeons. Surgeons benefit directly from quality relationships with the anesthesia team — and they are also the ones who bring the surgical cases to the hospital. That’s why good relationships with surgeons and administration sometimes give practices an inside track (or at least an edge) should the hospital elect to put the anesthesia contract up for bid. Plus, should your practice consider a merger or acquisition, having solid relationships with surgeons through your own M&A changes will encourage them to support you if the new practice structure isn’t well-recognized by hospital leadership.
- Gain anesthesiology practice management knowledge. There are three main ways to gain useful practice management strategies: study, experience, and asking for advice from others. Too often we forget how much we can learn from those who’ve “already been there.” The best strategy team is typically a blend of internal leadership and external resources. Be sure to consider seeking experienced outside consulting, guidance and support.