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Editor's Page
The Return of the Prodigal Surgeon
Dan O'Connor
Publish Date: October 10, 2007

Dan O As doctors in some of the most lucrative fields of medicine do more of their cases in ASCs and office-based surgery suites than ever before, community hospitals around the country are doing all they can to lure prodigal surgeons back to their ORs, dangling such perks as medical office space, two-OR scheduling and handpicked surgical staffs to reclaim the cases they'd lost to alternate-site facilities.

Dan O Apparently, it's working. We didn't have to look very far or very hard to find stories of surgeons returning to the very hospitals they not long ago fled for what they thought were the greener pastures of surgery centers.

Not long ago, an orthopedic surgeon left North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colo., for a competing surgery center - and took with him the 10 very lucrative cases he performed on an average day. When word got back to Jennifer L. Misajet, RN, CNOR, the hospital's director of surgical services, that the ASC the surgeon had invested in wasn't the model of efficiency he hoped it would be, she made a run at him. "

We looked at the profitability of this surgeon, which is something that hospitals typically don't do," says Ms. Misajet. "In terms of volume and revenue, it was a huge hit to us. He is by and large the busiest orthopedic surgeon in our community. We're a one-hospital town and never had any competition. We found out that it was worth our while to accommodate him."

Accommodate him, they did.
"Luring surgeons from a competing ASC is successful when you offer them three things," says Ms. Misajet. "First and foremost is a quality staff that's highly skilled in the surgeon's specialty. Second is providing adequate block time and offering flexibility and convenience to add on elective cases. Third is having equipment and supplies for the surgeon's specialty that are state-of-the-art, in good repair and in adequate supply."

The courting worked. North Colorado Medical Center promised its wayward surgeon a dedicated ortho team and two-OR scheduling (after all, the hospital has the equipment and supplies to have two ACLs going on at the same time if it wants to).

So the ex-ASC physician-investor is back where he started, happy that he has the block time he wants and the experienced staff he needs, happy at least for now.

"Instead of stealing surgeons for good," says Ms. Misajet, "you steal them for now."